What is a Mala?
Rufous hare-wallaby Largochestes hirsutus
They weight between 0.8 and 1.6 kg. They are listed as 'endangered' under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and are classified by the Northern Territory Government as 'extinct in the wild'.
In 2005 Anangu and Parks Australia completed the construction of a 170 hectare feral proof enclosure, which became the new home for 25 Mala, or rufous hare-wallabies, reared in Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory. These wallabies are breeding and will eventually be released into the park and contribute to the long-term survival of the species.
The Mala once inhabited spinifex country throughout Central Australia. Today the Mala is extinct in the wild, wiped out by European settlement, changing fire regimes and feral predators such as cats and foxes.
Even though they have not beeing in the park since the mid 1900s the Mala or 'hare wallaby people' are important ancestral beings for Anangu. For tens of thousands of years, the Mala have watched over them from rocks and caves and walls, guiding them on their relationships with people, plants and animals, rules for living and caring for country. Mala Tjukurpa, the Mala Law, is central to their living culture and celebrated in story, song, dance and ceremony.
In the beginning, Mala men women and children travel a long way to reach Uluru. When these hare wallaby people arrive, they camp at sites separate from one another: young men in one place, old men in another, senior single and married women elsewhere, all surrounding the other women and children in the middle.
Senior Mala men come from the north-west, bearing a ceremonial pole which they plant at a high point on Uluru. Now the Inma or ceremony can begin. Everything is done in a proper way, even everyday jobs like hunting, gathering and preparing food, collecting water, talking to people, or just waiting. This has been Tjukurpa, the Law, for men, women and children ever since.
Luunpa, the kingfisher bird, cries out a warning "Purkara, purkara!": an evil dog - like creature called Kurpany has been created by people in the west to destroy the Mala ceremony. The warning is ignored and Kurpany kills two Mala men, and everyone, men, women and children run away.
One of the attractions within the park is the Mala Walk which takes you around a section of the base of Uluru to Kantju Gorge.
Today's visitors can see many signs of the Mala creation in features appearing in the landscape across the northwest face of Uluru. Look for Ili (the wild fig tree) and Arnguli (the bush plum) which Mala women and children gathered for food. At Malaku Wilytja, look for the huge slab of rock in front of a cave, made by Mala women and children to sit and rest - and inside, see the children's hand marks on the ceiling. Visit Kantju waterhole, the main water supply for Mala ceremonies and one of the few reliable waterholes around Uluru. Be quiet here and look and listen.
People who climb are walking over the tracks of the Mala. Anangu ask that visitors respect their wishes and choose not to climb because of Uluru's great spiritual significance. Stay safe on the ground and go for a walk with a Ranger.
The Mala Walk begins at the main car park at the base of Uluru. It is about two kilometres return, and we suggest 90 minutes to relax and enjoy this area. Park rangers provided guided walks along the Mala walking track each morning at 8:00am from October through to April and at 10:00am during May through to September. This walk is wheelchair accessible.
The result of a joint project between Department of Environment and Water Resources, Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory and the Mutitjulu Community. Assistance in consultation with Anangu (the traditional owners) from the Central Land Council.
- 170 hectares, 5672 metres of fenceline.
- Fox, dog and cat proof.
- Commenced construction April 2004, completed September 2005.
- Over $44 000 paid in wages to Mutitjulu Community (Anangu) members.
- More than 35 Mutitjulu Community members directly involved in the construction of the fence; many others from Mutitjulu and other communities involved in consultation at all stages of the project.
- The reintroduction of locally extinct species is part of the park's Plan of Management; Anangu have identified Mala as the priority.
- Bringing Mala back to Uluru also encourages the passing of important ecological and cultural knowledge between Anangu and Park staff.
- A prime objective of Joint Management is to make sure that traditional skills and values and a 'scientific' approach complement each other in looking after the country of the park. Anangu and non-Anangu have worked together on this project, each providing their respective knowledge and skills.