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Govt seeks leader to deliver Lot Fourteen's Aboriginal cultural centre

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The State Government is advertising for a director to deliver the $150 million Aboriginal art and culture gallery planned for Lot Fourteen – before cabinet ministers sign off on an overdue business case outlining the centre’s viability.

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Renewal SA – the government agency in charge of transforming the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site into Lot Fourteen – has begun searching for a “project and program director” to lead the construction and planning of the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre ahead of its anticipated opening in 2023.

According to the job description, the director would be tasked with “the delivery of a world-class cultural facility” that would “respect, acknowledge and celebrate Aboriginal stories through truth-telling of the old in new unique ways”.

Listed responsibilities include developing a curatorial strategy, workforce planning, overseeing the building’s design and construction, liaising with other cultural institutions including the SA Museum, Art Gallery of SA and Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute, and establishing an ongoing funding model for the centre.

The State Government told InDaily in August that it had finalised the business case for the $150 million state and federal-funded centre.

At the time, a government spokesperson said the business case, which was long-overdue after an extended consultation with the state’s Aboriginal communities, would be discussed at a cabinet meeting “in the coming weeks”.

However, a government spokesperson told InDaily today that the business case was still yet to be considered by Cabinet.

The $77,025 report, completed by SGS Economics and Planning, is expected to outline the centre’s economic feasibility, as well as a recommended curatorial vision and governance structure.

The spokesperson did not respond to questions from InDaily asking why the Government had begun advertising for a director ahead of Cabinet signing off on the business case, or when the business case would be discussed by ministers.

The director role – which is advertised as a “long-term contract” of up to three years – is only open to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander candidates and pays between $154,678 to $216,626 per year.

Applicants have two weeks to apply.

Lot Fourteen state project lead Diane Dixon said the salary was “commensurate with other similar roles for cultural institutions of this size, scale and stature”.

She said planning, design and development of the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre was progressing “quickly”.

“We are aiming for the new director to be embedded as soon as possible to contribute his or her cultural expertise during this critical early stage of the project,” she said.

“The successful applicant will start as soon as practicable and will be based at Lot Fourteen”.

Premier Steven Marshall told parliament earlier this month that the State Government had paid SGS Economics and Planning $77,025 to prepare a “full” business case, with law firm Powell & Co paid $235 for probity advice for the centre.

By comparison, the former Government’s 2016-17 budget included $500,000 to “further progress” its business case for a contemporary art gallery at Lot Fourteen – a plan the Marshall Government scrapped when it was elected in 2018.

InDaily asked Marshall’s office why the spend on the Aboriginal Cultures Centre was comparably lower, but did not receive a response.

His office also did not respond to questions asking if and when the business case would be made public.

InDaily reported last year that the Adelaide gallery had dropped the word “national” from its title amid competition with the Northern Territory over plans to build what both jurisdictions claimed would be Australia-first institutions.

Marshall later conceded 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”.

Meanwhile, the Western Australian Government announced last month that it too would join the running to build the nation’s first Aboriginal cultural centre to fill what the state’s Treasurer Ben Wyatt described as a “great cultural missing link” in Australia.

report summarising findings from the SA Government’s consultation with Aboriginal communities and other cultural institutions – published in November – recommended that the Adelaide gallery by called a “centre” as “for many people, the word ‘museum’ or ‘gallery’ mean different things”.

The report stated the centre would complement Tandanya National Aboriginal Cultural Institute and the Art Gallery of SA, and house what the SA Museum describes as the “world’s largest” collection of over 30,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artefacts.

Dixon told InDaily that the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre would be a “once-in-a-generation opportunity to establish a truly distinctive and internationally renowned cultural and tourism attraction”.

“It is being developed in partnership with the Aboriginal community to recognise and celebrate some of the world’s oldest continuous living cultures through immersive experiences that will drive year-round cultural tourism to Adelaide,” she said.

“The commitment to this project is already significant.”

The Federal Government pledged $85 million and the State Government contributed $65 million to build the centre as part of a city deal signed last year.

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