Uluru "removed" from Google Street View

That certainly sounds very religious.


I’m a bit torn on this.

On one hand, the aboriginal people of Australia suffered centuries of abuse and their sacred places were repeatedly desecrated.

On the other hand, if this was Catholic church making the demand, we Boingers would laugh and likely ignore them.


The Catholic Church probably never would have been put in a position where they were forced to allow thousands of tourists to desecrate one of their most holy sites in the first place.


I experienced a powerful synchronicity while learning this. As I clicked on the link in the article, to the content that is soon to be deleted, because I couldn’t resist, this song came on the radio, and it could not have been a more relevant thing to hear in that moment:

Perada - Patti Smith/Soundwalk Collective

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Power dynamics matter. So does respect for cultural heritage whether Aboriginal, Catholic or otherwise.


I must not be a Boinger then.

I have been to many sacred places around the world, and tried to treat them with respect. You just don’t go into a mosque or synagogue or cathedral or medicine wheel or Irish pub for that matter and start taking pictures and gabbling away and climbing structures and mocking things you don’t understand. Even if you don’t share the awe, you can honor the awe of others.


“The formation, one of the continent’s most famous natural landmarks, is sacred to indigenous Australians such as the Pitjantjatjara.”

Let me fix that for you.

“The formation, one of the continent’s most famous natural landmarks is sacred to many Pitjantjatjara people, and to some people from a small number of other groups of indigenous Australian whose winter migration routes included the formation.”

To suggest that all indigenous Australians regard it as sacred sounds very odd given that historically most of them didn’t know it existed. I am in awe of those who survived in the Uluru region year round, and I’m also in awe of those who did a seasonal migration every year, trekking huge distances from areas with reliable water in summer to the harsher inland regions in Winter. But traditionally the majority of indigenous Australians lived in areas with far more reliable water supplies year round.

To claim that the Pitjantjatjara regard Uluru as sacred seems similar to claiming white Australians regard “the bible” as sacred. Some white Australians regard a bible as sacred (though they disagree as to which one), and some regard it as nonsense, either due to being atheists or due to subscribing to some other faith. Similarly some Pitjantjatjara are atheists or have converted to other religions. Some of these may still feel a cultural connection to Uluru, some not, but they don’t have the religious beliefs that would warrant the word “sacred”.

Of course, none of this helps in deciding whether to climb. Atheists may not regard religious texts as sacred, but rarely publicly burn them. Just because we regard them as nonsense doesn’t mean we want to go out of way to offend people who regard them as sacred. (Some of us say we’re happy to leave the suppression of the various biblical texts to those who support a different version of the biblical texts.)

And for those who have decided not to climb and are worried they’re missing out on an experience, I’ll pass on some negative comments from some climbing buddies who did it a few decades ago.

The posted route is not a climb; it’s a walk up an incline, made difficult by extreme heat, a significant risk of dehydration, and in the lower sections, hoards of unfit tourists who keep getting in the way. There may be some more technically challenging routes, but the rock texture is so abrasive they wouldn’t be much fun. The view from the top isn’t great due to the heat haze coming off the rock. In terms of beauty, the view from the top doesn’t even come close to the views of the rock from somewhere else. There’s lots of great places to climb in Australia. This isn’t one of them.


I think to add to the idea of colonialism was the massive public outcry and debate when the climbing restriction was enacted. Many people against the restriction almost seemed to be saying it was their ‘god given’ rite (irony intended) to be able to climb ‘their’ tourist attraction. If your on someone else’s land you play by their rules no ifs, buts or arguments.

Having said that we have a government that is so beholden to the mineral resources sector that one of the worlds largest mining companies was able to blow up Julukan cave a 46,000 year old site with indigenous artifacts, damage control being the consequence… “sorry we blew it up, we’ll fire our CEO, but I guess that now it’s destroyed we get to keep it”.


Pretty much everything that I was going to add was already covered by others upthread.

The photography ban (AKA “polite and unenforced request by the custodians to show some minimal respect for their ways”) relates to specific parts rather than the entire site, not all Indigenous Australians are Aṉangu, not all Aṉangu think the same way, there are conservation as well as cultural reasons for the climbing ban, etc. etc.

So, instead:


Have the Australian government also asked Google Maps to replace the Juukan Gorge cave the Rio Tinto mining company destroyed?


I didn’t say people should be running around on the mountain, however there was just an article about the Vatican’s insistence about no photos due to a now expired contract that met with some absolute derision.

Power dynamics do matter, hence my first point. Of course, a rational mind can say that superstitions are superstitions no matter where they originate, certainly the abuse incurred by the aboriginal peoples is deserving of kindness and respect. Yet, photos already in existence, removed still seems pointless… but since the people making the request are owed so much more by society, I suppose giving on the point is only right, and doesn’t even move the meter on the debt owed to them.

The Vatican though, protectors of pedophiles, can go screw themselves.

Pretty much everything that I was going to add was already covered by others upthread.

The photography ban (AKA “polite and unenforced request by the custodians to show some minimal respect for their ways”) relates to specific parts rather than the entire site,

See, now that makes much more sense. I wonder if the initial reporting is also reflective of power dynamics and was meant to engender my exact initial thoughts.

When photos of physical or sexual abuse are removed from a web platform, most people can understand that it’s about respecting the victim even after the primary harm is done. So think of the decision to remove these photos from Google Street View as a gesture of respect to a culture that was victimized for centuries.


BTW, my limited understanding of the cultural issue with climbing Uluru:

By Aṉangu law, they are the custodians of Uluru and the surrounding territory. This carries with it two responsibilities:

  • It is their job to ensure that visitors behave properly, and
  • It is their job to ensure that visitors come to no unjustified harm.

Idiot tourists having heart attacks while climbing Uluru violates both of these.

In addition, Uluru is made of very soft and brittle sandstone. If one were sufficiently dickish to do so, it is easy to break off large chunks with just your hands. The erosion effect of climbers is severely harmful.


So think of the decision to remove these photos from Google Street View as a gesture of respect to a culture that was victimized for centuries.

Yeah, I think I said that.

Only if they’re disrespectful dicks - anyone with an ounce of intelligence should realise that, regardless of one’s personal attitude to organised religion, behaving like an asshole in someone else’s place of worship is just showing an incredible lack of respect to other people’s feelings, and I’m certain that the great majority who contribute to boingboing wouldn’t behave like that.
I’m not a believer in any sort of religion, but I do have respect for others who do, and I am always respectful when visiting any place of worship, in particular our churches and cathedrals, because they are calm, quiet places of great age and beauty - just standing inside Wells or Salisbury Cathedrals fills me with wonder, that humans could shape stone so beautifully and build such places that are still standing 1000 years on; in particular Salisbury, which has virtually no foundations to speak of, and stands on river gravel, and a staggeringly tall steeple!
Even a couple of Russians were encouraged to travel all that way just to see it… :wink:

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