Should you climb Uluru: Why would you walk over someone's sacred site?

How is this still a thing? How is it that after all this time, after all the reasonable arguments, after all the advancements in relationships with Australia's Indigenous people, after all the respect shown in other countries, we're still talking about climbing Uluru?

How is it that people are still considering actively disrespecting the beliefs and the wishes of the traditional owners of the land? How is it that tourists are still reading those signs at the base of the rock asking them not to climb it and then going ahead and doing it anyway?

How is it that the Australian government won't just ban the practice?

They had the chance a few weeks ago, once again, to stop tourists scaling Uluru out of respect for the local Anangu people, and once again they chose not to. There was a small explanation about how a ban could negatively affect visitor numbers in the area, and then it all went quiet again. Case closed.

See also: Should tourists climb the Uluru?

And so here we still are, with about 55,000 people each year choosing to go against the wishes of the Anangu and climb the rock. It's not just Australians, of course. There is a huge number of foreign tourists who make the climb as well, showing an interesting take on experiencing and appreciating local Indigenous culture while they're in the area. 

How is this still a thing? Why do they all still do it? 

For me there can only be one real explanation: Aboriginal culture and spirituality is not taken seriously. Worldwide. Still. 

Think about it this way. In pretty much every other country in the world, tourists will be asked to show some form of respect to a local culture or religion.

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They will be asked to dress in long, often hot clothing in some Middle Eastern countries. They will be asked to remove their hats when they enter a church in Europe. They will be asked to remain silent in tombs. They will be told that non-believers can't enter certain parts of a temple. 

And the reaction to those requests, pretty much across the board, is to respect the local people's wishes. We do all of those things unquestioningly, because that's the way it is, and that's what you should do. 

You're a guest in these countries, in these cultures, so you do what any good guest would do and you obey the wishes of the hosts, however strange and unnecessary those wishes may sometimes seem.

See also: 20 reasons to visit Uluru

And yet every year, 55,000 people read those signs posted by the Anangu people around Uluru and think, "Nah."

Why? Because Aboriginal culture isn't treated with the same respect that other cultures are treated. Not just by Australians, but by tourists from all over the world. 

They don't believe that an Indigenous people can lay claim to a natural wonder. They don't want to understand how a connection to country – to something tangible and real – could be viewed in the same way as a connection to a god or deity. They don't respect the belief that a physical place can hold stories, and that those stories can be even more important to a people than the churches and mosques and temples that the rest of the world erects and holds dear.

They don't take any of it seriously. They can't – otherwise how could they justify their decision to still climb?

The sad irony, of course, is that many people travel to Uluru with the stated intention of learning about Aboriginal culture. Half their reason for being there is to find out more about our Indigenous people. And yet about 20 per cent of those tourists then go and ignore the Indigenous people's traditions and beliefs.

See also: Things you can do overseas that are banned in Australia

To me, it doesn't matter what the stated reasons are for the Anangu's opposition. Maybe it's safety, maybe it's respect, maybe it's religion or spirituality – maybe it's all of those things, or none. This is a large group of people who are always going to have differing opinions. The only thing that should matter is that we've been asked not to climb.

If this were any other country, or any other culture, tourists would obey the wishes of the locals and do the most respectful thing. It might be a little disappointing not to be able to do something or see something that you really wanted to when you're travelling, but that's the way the world works. You respect the wishes of your hosts.

For some reason, however, Australia's Indigenous cultures aren't taken anywhere near as seriously, by anyone. 

Which has to leave you wondering: how is this still a thing?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

​See also: Australia nanny state: Have we become a nation of idiots?
See also: Why expats are so full of themselves​

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