‘Positive soundings’ on private money for stalled Aboriginal cultural centre

Plans for a $400-$600 million Aboriginal cultural centre on North Terrace “potentially” hinge on attracting private funding, Premier Peter Malinauskas says.

Sep 13, 2023, updated Sep 13, 2023
The intended site for the Aboriginal cultural centre at Lot 14 on North Terrace. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The intended site for the Aboriginal cultural centre at Lot 14 on North Terrace. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Premier has set an end-of-year deadline for Cabinet to decide the future of the Tarrkarri Centre for First Nations Cultures, intended for a former Royal Adelaide Hospital site to display the state’s Aboriginal cultural artefacts collection.

The project, initially costed at $200m, was put on hold in October 2022 after the managing contractor advised of a $50 million cost blow-out and warned the building would only be of “local state-level standard”.

The Malinauskas Government then appointed a panel led by former Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr and Reserve Bank board member Carolyn Hewson to review the project.

The most recent design concept for Tarrkarri – Centre for First Nations Cultures, by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot. The centre was expected to display pieces sourced from the SA Museum, Art Gallery and State Library collections.

The panel recommended the government spend “multitudes of $200 million” – potentially between $400 million to $600 million – to make Tarrkarri an internationally significant centre.

Malinauskas said today there were still “a number of issues” to work through related to Tarrkarri’s cost but “we would like to land a position on this before the end of the calendar year”.

“We are open-minded to wanting to work with other potential sources of investment to make this project work,” he told ABC Radio Adelaide.

“One of the things that we’ve been very clear about from the outset is that if the Aboriginal Arts and Cultures Gallery on North Terrace is going to be a success, it needs to be done properly.

“It can’t be done in a way that’s half-baked, it has to be an all-in effort.”

Asked whether the decision would hinge on the government finding substantial private investment for the project, Malinauskas said: “Potentially.”

He also said there was interest from the private sector to support the project but declined to say how much they would be willing to pay.

“We haven’t had any firm agreements or locked in contracts or anything of that nature,” Malinauskas said.

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“But there’s been discussions and there’s been some positive soundings, but there is still a lot of work to be done.”

There is currently $85 million in federal government funding on the table for Tarrkarri under a “City Deal” signed between the Marshall and Morrison governments in 2019.

The state government was set to fund the remaining $115 million before the cost blowout was revealed last October.

The Wyatt, Carr and Hewson review panel provided their Tarrkarri recommendations to state cabinet in April.

Tarrkarri was initially scheduled to open in early 2025. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

The Department of Premier and Cabinet also commissioned another review of the project from Andrew McEvoy, a former CEO of Tourism Australia and the South Australian Tourism Commission, on how Tarrkarri can attract tourists and drive “repeat visitation” to the centre.

The former Marshall Government estimated between 485,000 and 581,000 people would visit the centre in its first year, with the figure estimated to increase to up to 665,000 people by 2040.

Tarrkarri was initially scheduled to open in early 2025 and was expected to display pieces sourced from the SA Museum, Art Gallery and State Library collections – the majority of which is currently kept in storage – alongside new digital and performing arts displays that would tell the story of Australia’s First Nations peoples.

Original plans showed the building would span 12,500 square metres over three levels, which would make it bigger than the SA Museum and Art Gallery combined and one of Australia’s largest cultural institutions.

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