Give an inch and they’ll take a mile: Australia’s fear after the Uluru climb closure

uluru australias fear closure climb land rights
Uluru handover ceremony in 1985

Australia has a real fear of Indigenous rights in Australia. This fear was exposed after the closure of the Uluru climb was announced.

After the decision was announced to ban the Uluru climb, there was a huge backlash from a large portion of Australia’s society. An Indigenous group had made a decision to close one climbing track in the middle of Australia and it became a national controversy.

I will admit the decision did come as a surprise to everyone. The first anyone heard of the meeting to ban the climb was on the day of the meeting. But that is no reason to be fearful. There was already a plan set in place by the government to ensure that there would be a transition period. The Uluru climb will not close until October 26th 2019. That’s almost 2 years notice.

So where does all this fear and hate come from?

It comes from Australia’s fear of allowing true Indigenous rights and everything those rights entail. Just like the old saying, “give an inch and they’ll take a mile”. This fear was very evident around the time of the Mabo decision. Politicians, mining companies and members of the public were terrified of what real land rights (not native title) would mean to Australia. Most of all, they feared decisions being made by our people in the interests of our people.

The Anangu people in Uluru have achieved a form of land rights. These rights are recognised under Australian law which still does not offer full autonomy. The lack of benefits from the current arrangement can be seen by looking at the state of health care and housing in the region, especially in the community of Mutitjulu. After more than 30 years, little has changed.

Yesterday, we saw the Anangu Elders exercise one of the few benefits that the arrangement does bring and they banned people from walking up Uluru. Similar bans exist in other areas which ban people from entering sacred sites etc. But this ban at Uluru really struck a nerve with non-Indigenous Australians, as Uluru is a place that everyone knows and almost everyone has a dream to visit at least once in their lives.

The funny thing is, you can still visit. In fact you can still do something that many Anangu people are not allowed to do. Taking a helicopter tour and viewing all areas of Uluru is something that is prohibited for most Anangu people as there are sites that are strictly men’s or women’s areas for example.

But still this isn’t good enough for non-Indigenous Australia. The majority of Australian’s want the climb to stay open, some people have even called upon the prime minister to over-turn the decision. This comes back to that saying, “give an inch and they’ll take a mile”. Australian’s aren’t just angry about not being able to climb. They fear what might happen next. What will be the next step that we take towards upholding our cultural values and protecting our land?

This fear exists because of the Australian governments lack of sovereignty. The process of colonisation is not complete in Australia and acts of decolonisation are a threat to Colonial Australia’s national stability which has always depended on the dis-empowerment of our people. The fact that Australia refuses to treaty with our people has left the government and the non-Indigenous population in a very uncomfortable position. The anger and overreaction we are witnessing is a sign of aggression to try and put us “in our place”… which are modern day acts of colonisation.

Yesterday’s decision also stuck a chord with our mobs across Australia too. The decision was one of the most empowering moments we have seen this century!

So what is it going to be Australia? Will you continue to try and hammer us with hate into submission, back to our so called “fringe dweller” status? Or can we create a future based on understanding and respect? Our people are the oldest surviving people on the planet. Don’t you think there is some significant reason behind that?

You have far more to gain than what you have to lose.

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