But there is still much more work to be done. While preventing people from climbing the sacred rock is a monumental success that adheres to the wishes of our Indigenous population, I would hesitantly still consider it a more symbolic gesture than something of actual substance. I, of course, don’t mean to downplay the importance or significance of this victory that many apply to it, and it is possible – probable, even – that the fact I am not Indigenous myself plays into my opinion on the matter. It is just a single step in a much more complex issue.
Similar to the Change the Date campaign that has sprung up in the past few years in relation to Australia Day taking place on January 26th – also known as Invasion Day (see my piece on this from earlier this year HERE) – the closure of Uluru to climbers is something that should’ve just happened when it became a mainstream talking point. For years both cases have been brought forward by the Indigenous and mostly ignored, and when they became more commonly known and understood, action should have been taken instantly.
But both of them are more symbolic than anything else, and they do very little to assist those who are struggling under institutionally racist systems and the intergenerational effects of colonialism and oppression. While they offer gateways to greater public understanding and acknowledgement, they alone do not count as sufficient change in the long-term. Indigenous concerns are closely linked to a myriad of other public and private sector services, and institutionalised racism (that still very much exists) puts them in a disproportionately worse position than many others.
For example, there is a high incarceration rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Rather than stereotyping them as simply criminals, or people who are a burden on the taxpayer, there are countless ways we can approach this situation to abolish the causes, rather than focus intently on the symptoms and results. Dwindling education and welfare services, alongside various socioeconomic factors, are major drivers in the disproportionate prison representation.
Similarly, in healthcare the news is not much better, with Indigenous people at greater risk of certain medical issues and, generally, lower life expectancy and higher mortality rates. They are also at the centre of many environmental causes, such as the Murray-Darling water scandals, the anti-Adani movement, the Djab Wurrung people fighting for their land and trees, and the introduction of uranium contamination in Indigenous WA communities.
While many of the overarching policy areas affect most Australians, it cannot be dismissed that Indigenous populations, not only here but globally, are worse off in many respects. Changing the date of a nationalistic celebratory holiday and closing Uluru to climbers, whilst common sense and significant moves, do very little to raise the living standards of our Indigenous peoples.
My Federal MP, Andrew Laming (the pathetic grub), just had to be part of the last wave of people who climbed it on the final day. He apparently believes that closing Uluru isn’t overly important and has argued with quite a few people on social media about it, asking “what next?” to gloss over his extremely insensitive actions. This is made even more shallow and despicable considering his party is the one that has exacerbated many of the above conditions that worsen the living standards of all Australians, with a particular blind eye to the plight of our Indigenous.
But the question, when asked by people who legitimately care for these issues and people, is valid – what next? The voices of our Indigenous people need to be heard in all aspects of our political system, not just the symbolic and PR friendly topics that we are overly saturated with in the media.
(As a sidenote to any who believe they have the “right” to climb Uluru and/or belittle the “sacredness” of the landmark, I admit I do not see the spiritual aspect as the Indigenous do, but that does not mean we cannot respect their beliefs and wishes. How is not climbing Uluru any different to not being allowed to climb the Pyramids in Egypt, or Stonehenge in the UK? Maybe we can all start doing parkour over the buildings of Vatican City? Most people who visit the site don’t even climb it.)
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