Cultural centre’s Lot 14 limbo | Ode to the uni merger | Pot plant thief caught green-handed | The cost of clean balls

This week InSider couldn’t help itself but continue celebrity spotting while delving into the things that really matter in Adelaide.

Mar 22, 2024, updated Mar 22, 2024
This banner says an Aboriginal cultural centre will open next year despite being put on hold in 2022. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

This banner says an Aboriginal cultural centre will open next year despite being put on hold in 2022. Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Time stands still in Lot Fourteen limbo

Interstate and overseas visitors to the Adelaide Fringe and Festival, not to mention South Australians generally, would be forgiven for thinking a great shining Aboriginal Cultural Gallery is about to rise on North Terrace.

And it will be built in record time, as it’s nearly April 2024 and will open in 2025.

At least, that’s what it says on banners spruiking the upcoming edifice along our premier cultural boulevard.

There it is, writ large, tall and wide along much of the Lot 14 frontage, on the site of what had been the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

“Opening in 2025, the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre will showcase culture and understanding of Country through education, performance, language, visual arts and exhibitions of our extensive collections using modern and innovative technologies,” it says on one banner. There are a few.

Sounds wonderful. They’d better get a wriggle on, though, as this is what’s actually behind the fence, only nine months from Christmas…

SA Aboriginal cultural centre

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

And the centre is not only not going to open in 2025, there’s doubt it will ever open at all. Perhaps they should take the date off the banners.

Let’s quickly recap the main points.

The Aboriginal cultural centre project was approved by the former Marshall Liberal Government elected in 2018, with an estimated $200 million price tag.

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.

But in October 2022, the new Malinauskas Labor Government put the centre, dubbed Tarrkarri, on hold after the managing contractor advised of a big cost blowout and warned the building would only be of “local state-level standard”.

The state government then appointed an independent panel to review the situation, which recommended Malinauskas spend potentially $400 million to $600 million to make Adelaide’s centre an internationally significant drawcard.

He then said the project’s future could “potentially” hinge on securing philanthropic funding.

In September 2023, the Premier said 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”.

That didn’t happen, with Malinauskas admitting in December that any decision had been kicked into 2024.

“This is a big decision that the government has to contemplate, there’s a range of different options that we’re turning out minds to in terms of the way it can be financed,” he said.

Asked if a philanthropic funding model was still the option being explored, Malinauskas said four months ago: “That’s being contemplated, yes.”

So, watch this space. Or vacant lot.

Tensions and troubles in uni merger Odyssey

The bosses of Adelaide’s soon-to-be merged universities have delved into antiquity to warn of the perils of their journey toward unity.

Writing as one – a kind of management Cyclops if you like – University of Adelaide vice-chancellor Peter Høj and his UniSA counterpart David Lloyd have compared the merger journey to Homer’s Odyssey.

Classics isn’t a favourite discipline in the utilitarian world of 21st century Australian universities – but surely our two learned gentlemen understood the implications?

Certainly, many in the sector are wincing at the metaphor.

To recap, our hero Odysseus spends 10 years trying to return home to his beloved Penelope after the 10-year Trojan war. Along the way he faces numerous perils, before returning to his home on the island of Ithica – whereupon he slaughters more than 100 of Penelope’s suitors who understandably assumed he was gone for good.

Writing for The Times Higher Education, the VC pair are open about the arduous and potentially troubled journey ahead.

They say their Odyssey towards “a fully functional new Adelaide University” is “not as linear as first conceived”.

“We might not be met with one-eyed giants or witches attempting to hijack our fate, but diversions abound as we attempt to deliver something never done before at this scale in Australia, with a university community of more than 500,000 staff, students and alumni offering different perspectives, experiences and of course, opinions.”

What happened to the sweet banquet of discourse fellas?

They go on.

The “deliberately democratic two-by-two approach across the board, gives rise to everyday tensions – and, let’s be honest, too many meetings”.

The sirens’ song of IT dysfunction is also rising above the waves: the pair reveal they have identified around 600 tech applications across the two universities.

The VCs warn of other perils on the journey, including a legislative requirement that adopted resolutions by the transition council must receive at least 60 per cent of votes – “another uncharted realm and a recipe for more potential tensions, perhaps”.

And there’s more: tensions are also predicted in working out a new academic calendar, and with rival academic teams working quickly to design new courses and programs, they ask: “What could possibly go wrong?”

The ending of the great unification might not be a figurative bloodbath, but it seems likely at least some metaphorical arrows will hit some soft parts.

There is, as the VCs say, “an acute realisation that this is an enormous disruptive opportunity that few of us will ever have again”.

Who knew it cost this much for ball cleaning?

This week, budget talks kicked off in Town Hall as the Adelaide City Council’s finance committee debated what projects to prioritise in the upcoming financial year.

Lord Mayor Jane Lomax-Smith queried the “low-level” priorities on their list, such as the North Adelaide Golf Course’s driving range ball cleaner/dispenser, which costs a cool $18,000.

“We’re talking about $18,000 for ball cleaning. I mean really, you know, if they need their balls cleaned, I mean I think that’s an unfortunate and unreasonable thing to do,” Lomax-Smith said.

Following this comment, InSider swears a voice sitting opposite the roundtable from Lomax-Smith contended, “I’ll clean them for $18,000”.

Without flicking the switch of their microphone the councillor remains anonymous to the public, but the comment itself was one InSider couldn’t fore-get.

Have a listen at 1:56:36 and see if you can catch it:

InSider hates to prove Councillor Henry Davis right, but he did call it in the moments after; the committee tee’d this one up easily.

Adelaide’s plant-theft chronicles

Two months ago InSider stumbled across a sad sight on Adelaide’s Reddit thread; security footage of a woman sneaking into a front yard and stealing a gorgeous Monstera pot plant. Like a thief in the night, she thieved, in the night.

The Reddit poster said the incident happened in Kilburn, and that it was the fourth time they had lost a plant in this manner since moving to the area 14 months before. Though they filed a police report, they felt the case was not high on SAPOL’s priority list, so they took matters into their own hands.

After the thief returned the very next day, this time going for a philodendron, our Reddit vigilante bought a pack of Apple Airtags, which they planted in some of their best-looking plants. Then, they waited. The game was afoot.

Caught green-handed: Kilburn’s resident plant thief was caught out with the clever use of an Apple Airtag. Photos: vunph / Reddit. Graphic: James Taylor / InDaily

Nothing, for a month and a half. Total silence. Maybe the thief found out about the ploy, maybe they decided to turn away from a life of crime, maybe they realised just how easy it is to propagate plants and had created their own philodendron and monstera army by now.

Just as our Reddit poster was beginning to give up hope, it happened.

The thief showed up last Friday night, and went home one philodendron and one Airtag richer. It was time.

The vigilante visited the thief, undercover. Camping out from 6am – 9am, there was no sign of the getaway car, thief, plant, or Airtag. The poster returned at 1pm – still nothing. Finally, third time lucky, they returned at 10pm to find the getaway car had returned.

The plant-owner has provided the police with the address and license plate of the thief, and asked them not to reveal to the thief how they came across this information.

The Adelaide Club’s brightest member

One of South Australia’s most colourful characters will be brightening the dour halls of Adelaide’s most private men’s club.

Winemaker Chester Osborn attended a function at the Governor’s pad yesterday evening, resplendent in his usual vibrant shirt. But InSider couldn’t but notice that the dapper d’Arenberg businessman had added a paisley bowtie and patterned jacket to the trademark shirt… and threw in black and white snakeskin cowboy boots to cap off the outfit. But the dead giveaway was the white folder emblazoned with “The Adelaide Club” he had tucked under his arm.

Chester was very pleased he’d been able to simply slip across North Terrace from his induction into the club to attend the tourism function on the GG’s lawns. Asked why he joined the club, he said the reciprocal memberships worldwide would come in handy on his many trips spruiking great South Aussie wine.

Cheers to that.

Out and about in Adelaide

Ok, InSider is addicted. Having spotted “the queen” on Ebenezer last week and in lululemon the week before, we didn’t have to go far to find our next VIP.

Seems that the Prime Minister stopped into a Flinder’s St cafe last weekend – maybe in search of caffeine after Penny Wong’s wedding? – and plonked himself at a table waiting to be served. The earnest young server, however, was having none of it and pointed out the “Wait to be Seated” sign at the door – not recognising who was gatecrashing.

By reports, the PM wasn’t too pleased. InSider suggests he makes a few TikToks so Gen Z can pick him out of a coffee line.

Stuff you should know

The Adelaide Park Lands Association reports that a 300-metre fence “that has been blocking access to part of your Park Lands for decades has finally been removed”.

“After 12 months of advocacy by the Adelaide Park Lands Association, a City Council work crew received applause on Thursday 14 March as they removed this old cyclone wire fence,” the association reported in its weekly newsletter.

The fence (and the adjacent steep embankment) were combining to block access between the riverside pathway, and the higher, open picnic area of Helen Mayo Park, in your Park 27.

The association was quick to point out that another fence keeps people off the nearby railway tracks and that it had asked the city council why this cyclone fence was there but no one knew why the decades-old barricade was erected.

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