Tourist runs the gauntlet of protesters to ‘break into’ Uluru – amid questions over how long the site will remain closed
- The Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is closed indefinitely due to the coronavirus
- Local Indigenous community members have blockaded the entrance to Uluru
- Traditional owners don’t want tourists in the park as they fear COVID-19 spread
- Jetstar flight with 42 visitors arrived in the region from Brisbane on Monday
- A woman from the flight allegedly broke into the park and was caught by rangers
A tourist has been caught sneaking into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park after it was closed indefinitely due to protests by Indigenous locals who wanted it shut to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Protesters blocked the park entrance on Monday morning after 42 passengers arrived on a Jetstar flight from Brisbane.
NT Health officials said three of the passengers were from virus ‘hotspots’ – as declared by local officials – and were transported by bus to Alice Springs for the mandatory two-week quarantine.
The Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community Corporation (MCAC) protested against letting anyone in and Parks Australia chose to indefinitely close the park from noon on Tuesday.
But a woman from the flight managed to sneak into Uluru when she bypassed an official entry point and was later found by rangers on Wednesday.
A tourist has allegedly been caught sneaking into the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park after it was closed indefinitely (stock)
Protesters blocked the park entrance on Monday morning after 42 passengers arrived at 10am on a Jetstar flight from Brisbane
Sources within the park confirmed the allegation to the ABC.
‘They want to get in; they want to do whatever it takes to get in,’ MCAC chief executive Thalia Bohl-van den Boogaard said.
While three of the 42 passengers were sent to quarantine in Alice Springs, the rest of the tourists were being flown back to Queensland on Thursday.
The decision to fly back was made before the alleged break-in was reported.
Daily Mail Australia has contacted Northern Territory Police for comment.
Parks Australia released a statement on Tuesday saying the national park was extending the closure indefinitely.
‘At the request of Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community Corporation (MCAC) and following further discussions with MCAC, Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia, the Central Land Council, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and the Northern Territory Government, the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park will remain closed while re-opening protocols proposed by MCAC are considered,’ Parks Australia said.
‘We have the utmost respect for Uluru-Kata Tjuta’s traditional owners and are continuing to work in good faith with them and all other parties to keep Mutitjulu residents safe.’
The Anangu are the owners of the land contained within the national park but lease it to Parks Australia.
Following the protest by the Mutitjulu Aboriginal Community Corporation (MCAC), Parks Australia chose to temporarily close the park until 12pm Tuesday
The organisation is now pushing for flights from coronavirus hotspots to Yulara, about 30 minutes from the park, to be cancelled, ABC reported.
This would also mean people from declared hotspots in the Northern Territory would not be allowed to fly to Yulara.
Pictures from the entrance to the national park on Monday showed members of MCAC standing on the highway in protest with cars parked across the asphalt.
‘We were told this flight would not be going ahead today after the NT declared Brisbane a COVID-19 hotspot on Friday,’ Mr Irvine said.
‘I watched most of the passengers enter Yulara this morning. This presents an egregious and totally unacceptable risk to the residents of Mutitjulu and the surrounding Lasseter region.’
An email from Parks Australia seen by the NT News revealed the organisation had previously refused to close the national park.
Tourists are no longer allowed to climb Uluru but can still walk around the base of the rock
The email stated Parks Australia’s position; that allowing tourists into Uluru would be safer for the local Aboriginal community because there would be less chance of transmission out in the open.
‘Closing the park now would result in visitors being confined in Yulara where the opportunity for contact with residents is much greater,’ the email reads.
Mr Irvine said traditional owners had been clear they did not want the visitors to enter the park and were left with no choice but to blockade the entrance after they were ignored.
NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner said he respects traditional owners views and said anyone arriving from a hotspot would need to go through mandatory quarantine.
Jetstar told Daily Mail Australia they are operating two flights between Brisbane and Uluru per week to deliver supplies and transport visitors.
The airline added it was following federal and state guidelines.
‘We advised all passengers including those from Brisbane, Ipswich and Logan areas they are subject to the travel restrictions that came into force on Saturday. Given these restrictions, we expect it will be largely outbound passengers and freight.’
NT’S DECLARED HOTSPOTS
NEW SOUTH WALES
City of Blacktown
City of Blue Mountains
Municipality of Burwood
City of Canada Bay
City of Canterbury-Bankstown
City of Fairfield
Georges River Council
Municipality of Hunter’s Hill
Inner West Council
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Liverpool City Council
North Sydney Council
Northern Beaches Council
City of Parramatta
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City of Randwick
City of Ryde
Municipality of Strathfield
City of Sydney
The Hills Shire
Municipality of Waverley
City of Willoughby
Municipality of Woollahra
City of Brisbane
City of Ispwich
Ararat Rural City
Bass Coast City
Baw Baw Shire
Benalla Rural City
Central Goldfields Shire
Colac Otway Shire
East Gippsland Shire
Falls Creek Alpine Resort
French – Elizabeth – Sandstone Islands
Glen Eira City
Golden Plains Shire
Greater Bendigo City
Greater Dandenong City
Greater Geelong City
Greater Shepparton City
Hobsons Bay City
Horsham Rural City
Lake Mountain Alpine Resort
Macedon Ranges Shire
Mildura Rural City
Moonee Valley City
Mornington Peninsula Shire
Mount Alexander Shire
Mount Baw Baw Alpine Resort
Mount Buller Alpine Resort
Mount Hotham Alpine Resort
Mount Stirling Alpine Resort
Northern Grampians Shire
Port Phillip City
Borough of Queenscliffe
South Gippsland Shire
South Gippsland Shire
Southern Grampians Shire
Surf Coast Shire
Swan Hill Rural City
Wangaratta Rural City
West Wimmera Shire
Yarra Ranges Shire