From Wasteland to Spiritual Birthing Site: Place-Making at Uluru (Ayers Rock) 1958-1985
From the late 1950s tourism authorities - official and commercial - were engaged in powerful place-making exercises that constructed a variety of tourist gazes for the Australian Outback that legitimated specific understandings of Whiteness, Indigeneity and connectivity with land. This was particularly so for the monolith at the centre of the Australian continent. During the following quarter century Uluru (Ayers Rock) was reconstructed from a monument to imperial/colonial conquest and Indigenous Australian dispossession to the locus of an Earth Mother and the birthplace of a distinctively Australian land spirit. This paper will outline and explain this re-imagining process and historicise it within important socio-political events. These include the erosion of the White Australia 'policy', Indigenous land rights and territorial contestation between federal and territory governments. This period begins when Ayers Rock was excised from the Petermann (Aboriginal) Reserve and gazetted as a national park in 1958. It concludes when the Governor General of Australia presented Anangu with title deeds to a formally renamed Uluru, and this previously dispossessed Indigenous community together with the Commonwealth government - in a spirit of mutual trust - entered into a joint management arrangement for the future world heritage listed site.
Keywords: Place-making, Tourist gaze, Site sacralisation, Indigenous land rights, National park joint management, World heritage
Ms Jillian Barnes
Doctoral Scholar, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, The University of Sydney