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5.4.03

Aborigines Try To Ban The Tale Of The Teddy Bear On Ayers Rock

National park officials say the Uluru [aka Ayers Rock] book, which depicts the bear at the summit of the rock, sends the wrong message to impressionable children. They also claim it contravenes strict laws governing photography at sacred sites. They have warned the Campbells that they face a £20,000 fine unless they pulp a new edition or write a more culturally sensitive version. Brooke Watson, manager of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park, said: "This is a special place, with its traditional indigenous culture alive in it. We are charged with protecting that culture, and if we have to put a plastic bubble over it to preserve it we are prepared to do that."

-- via WitchVox

I find Watson's comment to be a bit hard to believe. Yes, the park does make efforts to protect the native culture. But there's also a chain railing to help people climb it. I would think if they're that committed to preserving the cultural significance of the rock, they would at least take the chain down (thus making it much more difficult to climb the rock) and change the sign at the bottom from "climb at your own risk, and remember the Aborigines don't want you to" to "don't climb."

On the one hand, I would tend to lean toward measures to protect Aboriginal culture. The Pitjantjatjara people do, after all, nominally own the land that the park is on (it was given back to them in 1985, with the stipulation that it would be used as a national park). And emphasising the sanctity of Aboriginal culture at a site as important as Uluru is an important symbolic victory for a culture that has gotten the short end of the stick countless times. On the other hand, total indigenous sovereignty ignores the fact that the rock has attained important cultural significance for non-Aboriginal Australians, as an important symbol of their country. The situation requires some form of accomodation between the cultures. Book banning, however, tends not to make you any friends.

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