The final chains have been removed. Uluru is now at peace

14 November 2019

Malarndirri McCarthy - Senate Adjournment - 13 November 2019

I rise tonight to speak about the Uluru climb closure ceremony. On Monday 11 November 2019, the final chain from the top of the Uluru climb was removed. Uluru slept, for the first time in decades, beneath a moonlit sky, with no posts or chains on its surface. I was privileged to attend the closing of the Uluru climb on 27 October, along with my federal Labor colleagues Linda Burney, Warren Snowdon and Senator Patrick Dodson. The closing ceremony, organised by the Uluru Kata Tjuta National Park and the Anangu Traditional Owners, was an incredibly special event. I would like to thank the Anangu traditional owners for their personal invitation. As the sun set, performances by the Central Australian Aboriginal Women's Choir, Mutitjulu School and Shellie Morris welcomed the 2,000 or so guests. The Inma, or traditional dance, performed by seven surrounding communities, was so incredibly moving in the red sand against the backdrop of Uluru. Later, Mala Band, Mutitjulu Band, Shane Howard Trio with Trevor Adamson and Docker River Band performed, with surprise guest Peter Garrett performing 'Beds Are Burning'.

For me personally, it was a time to reflect on the hand-back of the rock in 1985. I was a teenage girl in Alice Springs at that time, and I remember the hope it gave for our future. I remember thinking, 'Australia's looking good. It's starting to recognise the First Nations people and acknowledge our importance in this country.' There were, naturally, criticisms at the timeterrible criticisms, like the sky was going to cave in if the rock was handed back to the Anangu. But none of that happened. Indeed, the Anangu immediately leased Uluru back to the Commonwealth as a national park, for the whole of Australiaand, indeed, the worldto enjoy, and they generously allowed people to continue to climb, while asking that people respected their wishes and chose not to.

In the last few months, we saw a few diverging opinions on the closure of the climb, but, all in all, I think Australia is in a much better place in terms of wanting to understand, appreciate and recognise First Nations people and culture. It indicates, I hope, a maturity in our nationa coming together and acknowledging the importance of First Nations people to our national story, not just in the history books but in our current national Australian story, a living story. It indicates respect for Aboriginal culture, and it will become one of the defining stories of our nation's healing and reconciliation.

Of course, as I've said before in this place, the decision to close the climb was a long time coming. In 2010, the Anangu announced their intention to close the climb once fewer than 20 per cent of visitors chose to scale Uluru. In 2017, that number reached 16 per cent, and the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Board of Management announced that they would close the climb on 26 October 2019, with the ceremony on 27 October 2019.

Uluru is an incredibly sacred place. It is part of the Tjukurpa, an Anangu word for songlinethe Tjukurpa that stretches far across Australia.

I feel immensely proud of the Anangu for their strength at this time and deeply heartened by the respect shown by the Australian people in respecting their decision. I hope many in this chamber and across Australia will continue to visit this incredibly beautiful, spiritual and peaceful place that is there for all Australians.