THE last time so many vehicles converged on Mutitjulu, they carried an army of police, soldiers and bureaucrats, the advance party for the Howard government's emergency takeover of indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. More than five years later, the Aboriginal community of 250 at the base of Uluru welcomed a happier convoy. Trucks brought sound and lighting gear, radio-broadcast equipment and portable toilets, while buses delivered hundreds of tourists from the hotels on the other side of the monolith.
In the days after the intervention was announced in 2007, families fled Mutitjulu, fearing their children would be taken from them. But this weekend, the community, which is normally closed, threw open its gates for a concert to mark the 30th anniversary of the Goanna land rights anthem Solid Rock.
Goanna frontman Shane Howard wrote the song after witnessing an inma (traditional dance) at Uluru on a camping trip in 1981.
The concert, part of an annual carnival, took two years to plan. Other artists participating included Archie Roach, Bart Willoughby, William Barton, Dan Sultan, Neil Murray, John Butler and Natalie Pa'apa'a.
Howard said Mutitjulu had been ''brutalised'' by the intervention but wanted to share its culture and traditions with non-indigenous people.
''We're making a good spirit here together,'' he told the crowd. ''Blackfellas and whitefellas, all together. We're showing Australia a new story. A way of being in this country, a proper way - giving a good example.''
That Mutitjulu faces steep challenges was denied by no one. ''We're still losing far too many people,'' the Mutitjulu Community Aboriginal Corporation chairman, Sammy Wilson, told the crowd. He said community members sometimes felt they had been portrayed as ''animals'' and it was important for them to tell a positive story.
The Herald travelled to Uluru as a guest of Tourism NT.