Uluru, one of Australia’s most famous and immediately recognisable landmarks, was more widely known as ‘Ayers Rock’ for a number of years. In fact, many Australians grew up knowing Uluru by only the name of Ayers Rock. This red monolith is not only spectacular, awe-inspiring and massive, it is also shrouded in quite a lot of history that serves to fascinate and intrigue locals and visitors.
Just as a Great Ocean Road tour in Victoria will introduce you to landmarks and sites of incredible beauty and cultural significance, experiencing the majesty and learning more about Uluru is an experience not to be missed.
Why was Uluru ever called Ayers Rock?
Uluru was first named ‘Ayers Rock’ by Ernest Giles, a European explorer who first sighted the rock in 1872. The name Ayers Rock was chosen by Giles who named it after the South Australian Premier at the time, Sir Henry Ayers.
However, Uluru is the traditional and cultural land of the Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara people (also collectively known as the Anangu people). In the Uluru area, many carvings and paintings created by these people can be found, and a number of special sites of sacred significance to these indigenous people — which are, appropriately, closed to the public — are also located in this area.
It is believed that the first tourists arrived in the Uluru area in 1936. Prior to this, communities of Aboriginal people, the indigenous people of Australia, lived in and were sustained by the area. In 1940, permanent European settlement of the Uluru area began as a result of the Aboriginal welfare policy of the time and in an effort to encourage tourism to Uluru. Increased tourism resulted in the first vehicular tracks being created in 1948 and tour bus services started to frequent the area in the 1950s.
In 1958 the Kata Tjuta National Park was separated from the Petermann Reserve — this area would become Uluru. At this time, the name Ayers Rock–Mount Olga National Park was given to Uluru and it became managed by the Northern Territory Reserves Board.
From Ayers Rock to Uluru…
October 26, 1985 signified an important date in the history of Uluru. On this day, the government of Australia officially returned the ownership of Uluru to the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people, the group of people who are the traditional custodians of the land. This action occurred under the condition that it would be leased back to the National Parks and Wildlife agency for 99 years and that joint management of the site would occur.
1995 marked the changing of the name of the national park from Ayers Rock–Mount Olga National Park to Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. This change in name was to acknowledge and show respect for the Anangu people and, particularly, their ownership of and relationship to the area.
On the October 26, 2010, the 25th anniversary of the handback of title in relation to Uluru was celebrated.
Words that are commonly used to describe Uluru are to the effect of ‘huge’, ‘red’ and ‘towering over the landscape’.
Uluru is the largest monolith in the world and it stands at 348 metres above the desert floor. With a circumference of 9.4 kilometres and an ascent of 1.6 kilometres, it is incredibly steep in some areas. The location of Uluru is approximately 450 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs.
Uluru is renowned for changing colours. Although it very much depends on the time of day and where the sun is positioned, dust is located and prevailing atmospheric conditions, the colour of the rock can move from shades of red and orange to tones that are far more lilac. Many people are drawn to the rock at sunset, as such changes of colour can occur in just minutes at this time of day.
Uluru is the most visited site in Australia. As well as combining a holiday in Australia with other wonderful activities such as a Melbourne tour, sailing on Sydney Harbour, enjoying the fine cuisine on offer in Australia and so many other possibilities, people are fascinated by Uluru for its historic, cultural and spiritual significance.
It follows that many visitors and locals are fascinated by the reasons Uluru was called Ayers Rock and can see much sense and respect in the name being changed to acknowledge the indigenous people, the traditional owners of the land, and their special relationship with the area and its features.