Despite laws to the contrary, many visitors remove rock and sand from Uluru as souvenirs to take home. Most often visitors do this to remember their visit of the Park and to share it with friends and family. Some people also remove rocks and sand as a way of making a personal connection with Uluru.
Anangu believe that rocks and sand belong at Uluru, not in the homes of visitors. Removing rocks and sand from the landscape is disrespectful to Anangu beliefs and culture. Removing rocks, soil and sand from the Park is also illegal, and visitors can be fined (up to $5000) for such activities.
The Park doesn’t have a Rock Return Department, despite rocks being returned more than one a day. The park keeps these in storage and effectively quarantines them because there is no way to ensure provenance.
Tour operators have an important role to play in discouraging visitors from removing rocks and sand from the Park. When sharing stories about the cultural and natural significance of the Park tour operators can inspire visitors to take Uluru home in their hearts, not their pockets!
In some cases, visitors have taken a souvenir from Uluru, only to return it days, months or even years later. This phenomenon of visitors returning rocks and sand is known within the Park as the ‘sorry rocks’. Between 2002 and 2005 the Park received over 800 packages of returned rocks and sand, many of which were accompanied by letters of apology.
The additional readings in the right-hand column are for those who would like to know more about this topic.