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11 August 2003
Uluru and Kata Tjuta are internationally recognised as places of deep spiritual and religious significance for the Park's owners, the Anangu people. The film and photography permitting system in the Park aims to balance commercial interests with the traditional laws and values of the Anangu.
The system also helps the Park's traditional Aboriginal owners benefit economically from use of their land and have some discretion as to how Uluru and Kata Tjuta are presented to the world.
There are no restrictions on taking photographs in the Park for non-commercial purposes, for example holiday photos, other than where park signs indicate sacred sites. Less than 1% of the park is restricted in this way.
There are restrictions on commercial photography and filming because these activities lead to wide dissemination of images of the Park and can result in images being used to promote products with no relationship to the Park, or to present the Park in ways that undermines its spiritual importance to the Traditional Aboriginal owners.
About 40% of the Uluru has tightly controlled access to commercial image and film capture. These areas are not necessarily "off-limits" but require very close supervision as some sensitive features can be shown depending on such things such as time of day the photo is taken. The remaining 60% of Uluru is available for commercial image capture under less stringent conditions.
The Director of National Parks, representing the Australian Government in the joint management of the Park with the Traditional Owners, manages these sometimes conflicting demands through the Park legislation and specific Guidelines for commercial film and photography.
The Guidelines, which have been in place since 1987, are currently under review with the intention of providing a simpler and more user friendly system. Constructive discussions are being held with the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers and the Association of Commercial Magazine Photographers in this regard.
Regulation of filming and photography is common, not only by park agencies, but also authorities at other sites of cultural and commercial significance.
The fees at Uluru for permits are $20/day for photography and $250/day for commercial filming. By comparison I understand Waverley Council charges between $1750 and $2500/day for commercial filming at Bondi Beach, the Melbourne Cricket Ground charges $550 per hour for still photography at the MCG, and $550/day for still photography and $2200/day must be paid for filming Darling Harbour in Sydney. No commercial image capture is permitted on the site of the Sydney Opera House, unless a photographer / filmer is on an official list.
In 2002, 124 permits were issued in Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park for commercial filming and photography in Uluru, and 14 applications were rejected. A further 64 permits were issued in 2002 for the commercial use of existing images, with 22 applications rejected. Past examples of rejected applications include advertising an undertaking business, wart remover, and soft drink.
Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 the Federal Court may order a person to pay a civil pecuniary penalty for unauthorised commercial actions carried out in the Park, including commercial filming and photography. The penalty may be up to $55,000 for individuals, and $550,000 for corporations. Only the Minister for the Environment and Heritage is authorised to apply to the Federal Court for such an order, and would only do so in cases involving deliberate and serious contravention, and after taking into account all relevant matters including whether it is in the public interest that such an action be taken.
In addition unauthorised commercial image capture and unauthorised commercial use of images may be a criminal offence against the regulations under the Act. The maximum penalty that may be imposed by a Court is a fine of up $5,500 for unauthorised commercial image capture, and $3,300 for unauthorised commercial use. The regulations cannot provide for a penalty greater than $5,500. Unless these regulations are contravened recklessly or intentionally no offence would be committed.
Our policy in dealing with inappropriate image capture is to seek amicable outcomes through negotiation with people who inappropriately use park images. In the majority of cases the person was unaware of traditional owner concerns, and they take steps to remedy their mistake. The removal from exhibition of Wim Wender's photograph of the Valley of the Winds by the Museum of Contemporary Art is a good example.
Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park is Aboriginal owned land that is leased to the Australian Government to manage as a national park.