Rising 340 metres above the Central Australian desert landscape, the red sandstone rock formation known as Uluru (prev. Ayers Rock) is a very sacred site for the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. Just 31 miles away is the less well known but also significant Katatjuta formation.
The Aboriginal tribes, sometimes referred to as the Anangu people in the vicinity of Uluru, migrated to this country around 70,000 years ago during the last Ice Age and have had a spiritual connection to this land and these features pre-dating all formal religions. The Aboriginal clans were modest sized units, each linked with an area in Australia, and so in this area of Uluru, it is the Anangu clan that predominate, although they do collaborate with other clans.
Seeing Uluru change colour through the day, it is not difficult to see why they recognised the beauty of the creation here and felt a connection to their creator. They believe that this landscape was created at the start of time by their ancestors whilst playing with mud, and that they are their direct descendants with a responsibility to maintain the environment and the sanctity of both Uluru and Kata Tjuta.
The rock formations provide many sacred ceremonial sites for the initiation of men and women, quiet caves and pools for contemplation, and other tribal ceremonies. There are also significant sites related to past battles and other historic events for their people. Their spirituality is based on their traditions passed down through so many generations that cover their history, law, and how they relate as a community to nature and time. The sunny and shady sides of the rock have their own significance for the Anangu people.
As a major tourist attraction recognised around the globe, Uluru attracts many visitors every year who want to climb the rock to explore and take photos. As a sacred site for the Anangu, they would much prefer that visitors do not climb and disrespect the rock, but rather to walk around the rock just as they do in their sacred ‘walkabout’. In walking around the site and carefully observing the different formations and the nature around them, the visitor would get a sense of the nature and how we connect with it. For the Anangu, the walkabout routes are well trodden and go back thousands of years and include sacred chants.
In his research into the Aboriginal tribes, the fourth Khalifa showed that the hundreds of tribal units in Australia remained isolated from each other, yet they all believed in a single creator ‘High Gods’ such as the Wiimbaio and Wotjobaluk tribes3. He also highlighted the importance of dreams in the community to converse with the Creator, and these could be interpreted by community elders and were always proven true in foretelling events.
As one of the most ancient peoples with their own moral code, the Aboriginal peoples are worthy of much more research and their sites deserve to be treated with respect just as any religious community would want their places of worship to be respected.
- Carr-Gomm, Philip (2011), Sacred Places, Quercus Books, UK
- Mudrooroo, Nyoongah (1994), Aboriginal Mythology, Aquarian, UK
- Ahmad, Mirza Tahir (1998), Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth, Islam International Publications Limited, UK