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Mark Knight explains why he drew Uluru as a man dreaming of a life without interference from climbers

Mark Knight, October 31, 2019 6:15PM Herald Sun

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Part of Mark Knight’s cartoon about the final day of being able to climb Uluru. media_cameraPart of Mark Knight’s cartoon about the final day of being able to climb Uluru.


Reading level: green

I visited Uluru many years ago, but I didn’t climb it.

I was on a work trip through the dead heart of Australia with a journalist to write and illustrate a series of stories on entrepreneurial* Aboriginal business people.

We drove to the rock from the south up through the Pitjantjatjara Lands to interview a local indigenous* tour operator. Permits* were needed to travel in this area, which consisted of miles* and miles of red dirt and blue sky.

At one point we thought we were at Uluru and got excited when we saw a huge monolith* rising out of the desert in the distance, but it was only Mt Connor, which looks sort of similar but is not the famed* rock. A cruel desert trick by the local spirits, we still had hours to drive through the dust on sandy desert tracks!

Tourists Flock To Uluru As Climbing Ban Approaches media_camerathe real Uluru in Central Australia. Picture: Getty Images

Talking to the local indigenous guides at Uluru, we started to gain an understanding of the meaning of the place to the local people.

Tourists were climbing up that steep spur*, but our guides asked us not to. They explained that Uluru was not just a rock, but a living part of the landscape, a place of spiritual* significance and should be respected.

That was good enough a reason for us, so we didn’t climb.

media_cameraA line of tourists climbing Uluru before the ban took place. Picture: AAP

We walked around the base and there we got to experience the enormous presence of the rock probably more so than climbing it. It towers over you. In other places it offers you shade and comfort. You also get to see all the little canyons, rock caves and waterholes like Mutijulu. When people visit the Australian desert they find it a mystical* place. Uluru is the heart of this experience.

So many years later when the day came that climbing Uluru would be banned forever, I decided to draw a cartoon calling upon my own experiences there.

When you see tourists scaling the rock silhouetted* against the sky, they look like an army of ants on a mission.

Mark Knight’s cartoon. Right-click and open in new tab to see full size.

media_cameraMark Knight cartoon about the final day of being able to climb Uluru.

The number of people climbing in the months leading up to the closure had exploded. The last day saw hundreds lining up like it was a Boxing Day sale at Myer! I wanted to capture that image of lots of little people scampering all over Uluru like ants at a picnic.

I remembered what my indigenous guide had said years before, that Uluru was not just a rock but a living part of the landscape, so I pictured it as a sleeping giant.

I drew the rock and in its rocky formations you can see the face of an indigenous man. Dreaming.

The only thing interrupting his dreaming is the army of ants (tourists) climbing all over his face, tickling his nose!

Now with the ban in place he can resume his dreaming in peace!


  • entrepreneurial: creating a business venture that may be financially risky
  • indigenous: native
  • permits: document giving permission to do something
  • miles: a measure of distance used in Australia before 1974.
  • monolith: a large upright block of stone or rock
  • famed: famous
  • spur: land or rock popping up out of the ground
  • spiritual: affecting the human spirit or soul
  • mystical: mysterious and fascinating
  • silhouetted: showing dark shape against a lighter background


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  1. Which lands did Mark Knight drive through to reach Uluru?
  2. Why didn’t Mark climb the rock?
  3. Name two things Mark saw walking about the rock.
  4. What is a monolith?
  5. Why were so many people trying to climb Uluru in October?


1. Caption it!
Read Mark’s explanation of what the Uluru cartoon means to him again and write two, three or four short sentences, just to make sure you understand what the cartoon is saying.

Using your sentences to help you, write a new caption for the cartoon or a new thought bubbles from either the climbers or the indigenous man that will make Mark’s meaning clearer for children or people who haven’t been reading the news this week.

Time: allow at least 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
Look through the most recent stories on Kids News and choose one to draw a cartoon about. Use Mark’s three-step process to get started:

  1. What is my subject?
  2. What do I want to say about this issue?
  3. How do I say it? Do I use visual metaphors (an image that the viewer is meant to understand as a symbol for something else), multiple panels or symbolism (when one idea, feeling or emotion is represented by something else such as a: picture, character, colour or object)?

Time: allow at least 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Humanities, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking

With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

Curriculum Links: English, Big Write and VCOP

HAVE YOUR SAY: Has Mark Knight’s story and cartoon changed how you feel about the climbing ban? Why or why not?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will show until approved by editors.

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