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The Mystery of the Uluru 'Curse'

Home > Uluru > Family | National Parks | Nature | Outdoor | Parks
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published May 24th 2022
Take photos but leave the rocks
It's Australia's most famous rock and annually there are 300,000 people who visit the World Heritage-listed site.

Uluru Ayers Rock sorry rocks
Don't pinch the rocks! (©paula mcmanus)

Sadly, a portion of those visitors feel that they want to take home more than just photos and memories. They "souvenir" a piece of the rock itself. Apart from it being an ethically and environmentally adverse thing to do, there are many who feel that the rocks they take from the rock are cursed.

While there is no curse that the Anangu, the traditional custodians, are aware of, they acknowledge that the removing of rocks from the area is hugely disrespectful to their beliefs and culture. It can also be expensive! Tourists caught trying to take pieces of nature from the national park can face fines of up to $8500.

Uluru Ayers Rock
Uluru (©paula mcmanus)

Some visitors who casually pocketed chunks of the sacred landmark and took them home found they experienced a series of bad luck events. Struck by guilt or misfortune, several hundred travellers each year send their holiday keepsakes back.

Nearly every single day of the year, the Anangu receive a parcel of returned rocks, seeds, twigs, sand or pebbles in what is an overwhelming task for them to manage. There have been so many rocks returned that, since 2004, they're officially known as "Sorry Rocks" because most of the parcels come with an explanation of the bad luck experienced and a heartfelt apology for taking them.

Jasmine Foxlee, a PhD student who studied and coined the term Sorry Rocks, said that while all of the letters contain an apology and many ask for forgiveness, approximately 25 percent of the letters talk of bad luck and personal tragedies.

Uluru Ayers Rock sorry rocks
Uluru sorry rocks (©paula mcmanus)

Each item and letter that's received are entered into a database. As it's impossible for the park staff to determine whether or not the rocks have been removed from sacred sites around Uluru and Kata Tjuta, they are reluctant to return the rocks to a place where they do not belong. Most of the items that are returned are placed in a creek bed near the Cultural Centre or are used for repairing erosion and flood run-off damage.

Most of the guilt-ridden tourists send their rocks back by post. One man experienced so much bad luck that he drove 3000 kilometres to return his piece of rock in person in an attempt to rid himself of the jinx.

Uluru Ayers Rock sorry rocks
Uluru rocks (©paula mcmanus)

Another tourist wrote "To Australia, I'm so sorry I took this piece of Uluru. I wanted a piece of Australia to take home with me. This was the wrong thing to take. I hope Australia can forgive me and welcome me if I ever come back. signed, An Unwise Traveller"

Some visitors take a year or two to return their rocks, but there have been incidents where a rock was returned 40 years later. The largest piece of rock that was returned weighed 32 kilograms!

The rocks and sand of Uluru belong at Uluru - not in the pockets or in the homes of its visitors.

Photos, memories, t-shirts and magnets should be the only holiday mementos that you should take home with you from a visit to Uluru.

Uluru Ayers Rock storm
black clouds over Uluru (©paula mcmanus)
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Why? Nearly every single day of the year, a parcel of returned
Where: Uluru, Northern Territory
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