Alice Aboriginal art gallery’s ‘competitor’ put on hold

The major “competitor” – as feared by the NT Government – to the planned national Aboriginal art centre in Alice Springs, Adelaide’s Aboriginal art and cultures centre, has been put on ice, while The Centre’s project is making slow progress after protracted controversies.

Story by Adelaide’s InDaily

Work on a $200 million Aboriginal art and cultures centre in Adelaide’s North Terrace has halted and the state government has appointed an “eminent” panel to review the project after a $50 million cost blowout.

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas announced this morning that he had suspended work on “Tarrkarri – Centre for First Nations Cultures” next to the Botanic Garden, describing the current plans as “sub-standard”.

He said this morning he wanted Tarrkarri to set an international standard for promoting and celebrating First Nations culture.

But when asked whether Traditional Owners in Adelaide had expressed concerns about the plans, Malinauskas said: “The short answer to that question is yes”.

He said he had appointed a panel comprising former Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, former New South Wales Premier Bob Carr and former investment banker Carolyn Hewson to urgently review the project, with their findings due early next year.

It comes after the project’s architects told the government that building the centre within its $200 million budget would require a “significant reduction in scope”, meaning the building would only be of a “local state-level standard”.

The project’s managing contractor advised the government that taxpayers would need to fork out an additional $50 million to build an internationally-significant centre, as was originally proposed by the former Marshall and Morrison governments.

After the conference, the Premier refused to speculate on whether the state government would increase funding for the project, saying he was “not going to start commenting on the budget now”.

Former SA Premier Steven Marshall revealed plans to build the centre, at the time saying it would be “the jewel in the crown” of the Liberals’ plan for the former Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

But the Marshall Government later dropped the word “national” from the centre’s title, with the then Premier conceding that there was “further consultation that’s required and approvals needed at the federal level when you’re going to start naming things as national centres and we just thought it wasn’t necessary”.

The project was later renamed “Tarrkarri”, meaning “the future” in Kaurna.

Funding for the project was secured under a “city deal” signed between the Marshall and Morrison governments in 2019, with the Commonwealth chipping in $85 million and state taxpayers funding the rest.

The centre was 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

It was designed by local architects Woods Bagot in partnership with New York-based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, with Aboriginal architects contributing to the project.

The former 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.

SA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher told InDaily that a “large number” of Aboriginal people had spoken to him about the centre and the government’s decision to review it.

PHOTO from the Tarrkarri website.

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