Indigenous author THOMAS MAYOR reveals why all Australian families should visit Uluru
I first went to Uluru as a child in 1988. I was 11-years-old, and the decades since never dulled what I felt, watching that great rock changing from deep red through a thousand shades of purple; the stars, billions of them, concluding the show like fireworks frozen in the night sky. The nights are cool in the desert, but with my family around me, and with that beautiful setting before me, I was warm. We drove there from our home in Darwin. We visited Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge, Alice Springs, Kings Canyon and Kata Tjuta along the way. You may imagine such a long drive through the desert would be boring, but without looking too carefully, you will marvel at the kaleidoscope of varying sand colours and types of vegetation. The journey is as wonderful as the destination.
There’s no doubt that the beating heart of our nation can be found in its centre, among red desert sand. The omnipresent Uluru is both a spiritual heart and a political one – the place where the Uluru Statement from the Heart was endorsed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives in 2017.
Uluru is also a great place for families to visit, especially to connect to who we are, as Australians. We can learn the culture we could gain when we embrace First Nations culture as our own through the constitutional change the Uluru Statement proposes.
Uluru is the home of the Anangu people, and they are a welcoming, generous people. A tour with an Anangu guide is the closest one can be to understanding the heartbeat of our nation, though there are other options. The cultural centre, close to the rock, has displays that teach how the features of the rock and surrounding geography came to be. Anangu artists paint artwork and teach cultural practices. You may be lucky enough to meet and be guided by the same artists who painted the song-lines on the Uluru Statement from the Heart. You may buy an artwork as a family heirloom, the pulse of the nation in your home.
I have five children. We are Torres Strait Islanders, saltwater people, though my children love learning about other Indigenous cultures. There is a pride that children feel by understanding beyond the 250 years that my generation were taught was the beginning. They imagine Australia as a nation that is more than 60,000 years old, and their imagination is true, you only need show them those horizons are within sight.
For a great experience of Indigenous culture, Uluru is without a doubt the place for a family to go. It will be unforgettable. A deep cultural experience with sights and vivid colours you and your children will always remember. Think of it as a once in a lifetime experience, though expect that you will be back for more. I have been there several times since I was a little boy, in awe at the presence of the huge spiritual heart of our nation. I am connected to it now, and I will be back again. Uluru has become part of my story.