Constructing the climb: Visitor decision-making at Uluru

Sarah James*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia's Northern Territory continues to be a contested site, as half of its 400 000 visitors continue to climb Uluru each year against the wishes of the Traditional Aboriginal Owners, the Anangu. Since being opened to tourism in the 1950s, Uluru has come to symbolise the 'heart' of the Australian nation. The influx of tourists also marked the beginning of contestations over control and access to this site between settler Australians, who wished to photograph and climb it, and the Anangu, to whom it is sacred. That visitors still climb Uluru could be seen as evidence that this site continues to symbolise a split between settler and Aboriginal Australian concepts of place and appropriate actions in relation to Uluru. To explore whether the continued climbing of Uluru was indeed evidence of an irreconcilable 'clash' of cultures, a survey of visitors to Uluru and interviews with both tourist operators and National Park staff were undertaken regarding visitor decision-making processes. This research found that rather than entrenched, fixed perspectives on the issue of the Climb, both non-Aboriginal visitors and tour operators showed an openness to the Anangu view of Uluru and their wish that it not be climbed. It also indicated, however, the importance of tourism and other media in conveying the Anangu view to visitors before they arrived at the site of the Climb itself, a point considered to be 'too late' by many visitors. These findings suggest the potential for change in the actions of many visitors in regard to the Climb through a more proactive representation of the wishes of the Anangu to visitors before they reach Uluru.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-407
Number of pages10
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Indigenous people
  • Northern Territory
  • Tourism
  • Tourist decision-making
  • Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park


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