MAUD WEBSTER, 20
Maud Webster, from Norwich, United Kingdom, is a writer, activist, and student who has worked on an array of social activism projects, filmography, journalism, zines, and radio. She currently works with a range of organisations, including Young Norfolk Arts, Centre for Writing, and BBC Radio. She films and edits videos about sustainability and plays a large role in the organization of her local Climate Strikes; she is infuriated that the voting age in the UK has not been lowered to eighteen. Webster believes that youth have more stake in their occupation of this world, so why are they not allowed equal say in legislation and law? She furthers this work with the Centre for Sustainable Energy as a part of the Bright Green Future program for young environmental activists.
Webster has written opinion pieces about current affairs for the Norwich Radical newspaper and reviews for the University of East Anglia’s Concrete newspaper. She participated in the ‘Dream Big’ filmography project with United Nations Foundation and Disney, interviewing the Kathleen Kennedy, LucasFilm president. All these incredible experiences have immensely developed her understanding of media platforms its utilization in storytelling. After working on this project, Webster’s writing evolved, more focused on imagery and the atmosphere and tone she wants to set for her reader.
Webster loves to explore new places, hiking in the beauty of natural spaces. In the past few years, she has organised sponsored hikes, raising over £2,000 for charities. Her time spent outdoors is bittersweet; she recognizes that the damage humans have inflicted on the tired and vulnerable environment is irreversible. She feels we are facing a tipping point both socially and environmentally where choices made as a society will irreversibly affect future life. Despite her fears about the damage the Earth faces, she believes in the power of youth to stand together with other nations and change environmental targets. Webster plans to study architectural engineering at Leeds University in September. She hopes to pursue a career in either architecture or engineering; highlighting the role for architects and engineers to make spaces which balance human and ecological need and sustainability.
UNJUSTIFIED UPROAR: CLOSING THE ULURU PATH
by Maud Webster
Originally published in The Norwich Radical
While Indigenous people in Australia are often shoved to the side and ignored in the media, they were thrown into the limelight last month when the wider community of the Anangu, in conjunction with a board of representatives, made the decision that the Uluru path will be closed. This was brought to the attention of the public by the Indigenous Rights page: Blackfulla Revolution. People took their rage to social media. Some insisted that this choice was unfair because there is, supposedly, some form of ‘shared ownership of the country’ despite the fact that the region was returned to the traditional owners thirty years prior. One man commented that, “It’s just a rock you bunch of apes.”
“Some fringe group thinks they can just close it off, no wonder they drink so much and never work,” another individual stated. These hurtful statements highlight the discrimination and lack of rights these communities face.
The result of this decision will take effect October 2019. While this is a more than ample period of notice, and due to a very legitimate set of rationale, decision-makers continue to face backlash which has caused serious concern for the community.
Records from as far back as the mid-1950s show that the path has claimed 35 lives. The path is 348 meters high and notoriously treacherous – it’s often closed due to strong wind or high temperatures. The last recorded death was in 2010 – a 54-year-old man collapsed 160 metres from the bottom despite having no history of medical problems, demonstrating how exerting the climb can be.
I find it distressing that some still wish to climb the rock despite these aforementioned dangers and the plea issued by the traditional owners of the rock.
“We feel great sadness when a person dies or is hurt on our land,” the Anangu quoted on their official letter published online. “We worry about you and we worry about your family. Our traditional law teaches us the proper way to behave.”
The path is considered sacred and spiritually significant by its traditional owners – it is only to be walked by a few Aboriginal men on special occasions. However, this is relatively unpublished leaving many of the tourists intending to climb the Ayers Rock completely unaware. This just further reduces the rights, particularly land rights, and respect granted to the indigenous people of Australia.
Considering the cluster of reasons which has culminated in the closure of the climb, it’s frankly disgraceful that a culture of fear and hate towards the indigenous people, particularly the Anangu, has been ignited.
This reaction is especially unwarranted considering there are still two years left to climb the path; it’s not being closed immediately! To some extent, this has also been foreshadowed for years by the reluctance of the traditional owners to allow people to climb the rock and the pleading discouragement they have displayed.
Overall, the uproar caused by this decision highlights the judgement and discrimination targeted towards the indigenous people of Australia. This reaction, although understandable, is still not moral or just. The land is not shared by the people of Australia and the treacherous nature of the climb further demonstrates the benefits of closing the path. Surely saving lives is a priority. We can only hope that before the closure of the path in 2019, people can get over themselves enough to come to terms with the fact that this is the most beneficial and kind finality of the long history of the path’s use.