The phrase ‘Ayers Rock’ is now trending on Twitter. This has sparked debate, with various people saying it shows Australia is still a racist country.
Herald Sun cartoonist Mark Knight recently drew a cartoon depicting Uluru above Parliament. The cartoon showed Uluru hanging above Parliment House while politicians ran away and Nationals Party Leader David Littleproud said: “We’re under attack.”
Knight said he created the graphic to support the Indigenous Voice to Parliament. Parks Australia, however, sent a letter threatening legal action unless the Herald removed the cartoon. They said the Herald didn’t have a permit to depict Uluru.
“To comply with the EPBC Act, media guidelines, ICIP (Indigenous Cultural Intellectual Property) laws and show respect for Anangu land and culture, we ask that you remove any artwork breaching these conditions and showing Uluru,” Parks Australia reportedly said.
Parks Australia changed their mind on Saturday, however, issuing an apology to Mr Knight, and telling The Daily Mail: “Staff sent Mr Knight an email about the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa media guidelines which was not appropriate – it isn’t a request that should have been made and we apologised for the error.”
The story sparked backlash, however, with quite a few Twitter users taking the opportunity to provoke. Twitter user Alexandra Marshall wrote: “What, now we’re not allowed to draw a rock that belongs to all Australians?”
Alexandra added: “Guess what, @Parks_Australia – Ayers Rock doesn’t belong to you, it belongs to 25 million Australians. We can walk on it, visit, photograph it and draw it as often as we like.”
As of October 2019, it has been banned to climb Uluru. As Australia Traveller puts it: “The traditional owners – the Anangu – consider Uluru an intensely spiritual place, an area where their Tjukurpa (creation stories), which govern their ceremonies, art and rules for living, converge.”
“Would you climb over a church or wander through someone’s backyard without permission?”
“The local Anangu people have long been calling for visitors to stop climbing the sacred rock,” Australian Traveller reported in August, “and up until the ban, hundreds of thousands of tourists scaled Uluru every year, against the express wishes of the traditional owners, the Anangu people.”
Not everyone sees it this way, however, with one Twitter user writing of the cartoon kerfuffle: “This is now an era of nonsense. We can expect more censorship when you know what comes in, endorsed by the PC beholden Albo government.”
Herald-Sun cartoonist Mark Knight, censured for his depiction of Ayers Rock in a newspaper cartoon of last Wed. This is now an era of nonsense. We can expect more censorship when you know what comes in, endorsed by the PC beholden Albo government.
— Andrew Trezise (@Weskittun) December 4, 2022
Another said: “Proof the federal government’s national parks agency has rocks in its head.” Yet another said: “Everyone should start drawing ‘Ayers Rock’ and post it online.”
“100% agree with you. I’m going to start calling it Ayers Rock again like it always has been,” said another.
Others posted photos of Uluru, and made even nastier comments.
This was met with backlash from others who said calling Uluru ‘Ayers Rock’ is racist and disrespectful.
"Australia isn't a racist country…"
Ayers Rock Trending: "Hold my white sheet and beer…"
— Turdine Cupcake (@erfbeeass) December 4, 2022
Twitter user DiPolarPilot wrote: “Oh good grief… ‘Ayers Rock’ is trending, the racists are out and about again I suppose.” Mal C, meanwhile, wrote: “It was renamed to Ayers Rock, not the other way around. It’s simply been corrected back to its actual name.”
im kind of astounded at the amount of ppl using “Ayers Rock” around here. Very disappointing.
— Charlize Theroff (@CharlizeTheroff) December 5, 2022
Another said “only drop dead drongos call it Ayers Rock. Australians call it Uluru.”
so youre saying
have been calling it “ayers rock” for over 50k yrs
— Dexcat63 2.0 (@MarkCumberbatc6) December 4, 2022
hopefully our 5 year olds will draw a blank when someone asks them what “Ayers Rock” is.
— Charlize Theroff (@CharlizeTheroff) December 4, 2022
Yet another said: “The place was known as Uluru for a hell of a lot longer than ‘Ayers Rock.’”
As Parks Australia explains, “the rock was called Uluru a long time before Europeans arrived in Australia.” Parks Australia also points out that the word is a proper noun from the Pitjantjatjara language and doesn’t have an English translation.
“In 1873, the explorer William Gosse became the first non-Aboriginal person to see Uluru. He named it Ayers Rock after Sir Henry Ayers, the Chief Secretary of South Australia at the time,” (Parks Australia).
“Ayers Rock was the most widely used name until 1993, when the rock was officially renamed Ayers Rock / Uluru – the first feature in the Northern Territory to be given dual names.”
“In 2002 these names were reversed at the request of the Regional Tourism Association in Alice Springs and the rock took on the official name of Uluru / Ayers Rock, which it still has today.”
An interesting discussion on Reddit provides an insight into how some people feel about the issue. When a tourist asked in 2020 whether it is still called Ayers Rock, responses ranged from: “In many social circles, people won’t care… In others, people will.”
“When I was a kid in the 90s and early 2000s, I don’t remember people caring that much about it.”
The same Reddit user added: “Personally I wouldn’t be offended if someone called it Ayers Rock (yes I am white) but Uluru is generally considered to be the correct and most respectful term these days. It’s what the Aboriginals call it and they are the traditional owners of the land. The rock is sacred to them.”
Another added: “I’d go a step further and say that if someone calls Uluru ‘Ayers Rock’, I’m going to keep an eye on what you say to see if you’re low-key racist.”
“Intentionally avoiding Aboriginal place-names can be a bit of a dog whistle. Saying it doesn’t mean you’re racist. But it’s certainly something associated with racism. To clarify.”
Yet another added: “It’s just more respectful to call it Uluru. As a foreigner you could probably get away with calling it Ayers Rock, but I haven’t heard it called that in forever, and I imagine any Australian who calls it that might get a strange look or two.”
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