In the Northern Territory of Australia the world's largest single rock formation towers above the red dust of the Central Plain.
In the Northern Territory of Australia the world's largest single rock formation towers above the red dust of the Central Plain. Ayers Rock monolith is a relic of the prehistoric past -- but its future is now threatened by a two-pronged human controversy.
SYNOPSIS: Ayers Rock is one of the wonders of the tourist world and Australia's greatest natural attraction for visitors -- even more popular than the Great Barrier Reef. Bit efforts to improve tourist facilities appear to have by-passed one important human consideration the fate of the aborigines who are currently housed in squalor at the base of the rock.
The aborigines are threatening to claim Ayers Rock, in the Mount Olga National Park, under Australian land-rights legislation, unless their living conditions are improved. At present the aborigines occupy "humpies" makeshift tents and huts near the tourist facilities. Visitors, particularly people from outside Australia, often express dismay at the shocking conditions endured by the aborigines, who eke out a meagre living fashioning artifacts which they sell to tourists.
The second controversy at Ayers Rock concerns the tourists themselves. Conservationists claim that tourist traffic is endangering the rock and its surroundings. While wilful vandalism is rare, innocent walking can cause permanent damage -- with thousands of feet over the years, soil has been trampled down and this combined with water erosion is fast changing the landscape. In caves around the 1,100 foot rock tourists have also damaged ancient aboriginal paintings - smearing them and overscoring them with initials. Less than two miles from the rock is an area strewn with sightseers' rubbish -- an eyesore and a disgrace to the nation say the environmentalists
Park rangers spend hours walking around Ayers Rock clearing away the debris after each batch of tourists. Environmentalists fear the scars on the landscape can only increase if plans to build a new tourist village materialise. At the moment spending cuts have halted the project -- and further delays will be inevitable if the aborigines press for their reforms, which are, after all, motivated by basic human need.