Construction on a $200 million Aboriginal Arts and Cultures Centre has begun, as its name, Tarrkarri, was also unveiled at an event on Tuesday.

The full name, Tarrkari – Centre for First Nations Cultures, was announced by Kaurna Elder Uncle Jeffrey Newchurch. In Kaurna language, Tarrkarri means “the future”, aiming to represent strong foundations for the Centre and its location on the Adelaide Plains.

The site was selected by the Aboriginal Art and Cultures Centre (AACC) Aboriginal Reference Group and was given cultural consent by Kaurna Warra Karrpanthi, whilst the cultural ground-breaking ceremony was attended by Senior Kaurna custodians, leaders and Elders, in addition to other various stakeholders.

Tarrkari – Centre for First Nations Cultures. Photo supplied Minister Fletcher’s Office.

Federal Minister for Communications, Urban Infrastructure, Cities and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, said the new Centre “will showcase the rich history of Aboriginal cultures in Australia to hundreds of thousands of visitors each year through immersive visual and performance arts”.

Minister Fletcher commented that the Centre, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and Woods Bagot, has cultural and tourist implications that elevate its importance.

“It is one of many important projects being delivered through the Adelaide City Deal, which is a commitment from all three levels of government to deliver community infrastructure that supports jobs, drives economic growth, and enhances the liveability and vibrancy of the city,” he said.

Premier of South Australia, Steven Marshall, described the construction’s commencement as a “special day for South Australians as we pause and celebrate a point in history where together we’ll create a place of belonging, healing, reconciliation and pride for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

The Premier remarked that the ground-breaking ceremony was historic in marking the beginning of a world-class facility’s construction, which he hoped will become a leading tourist destination for South Australia; from which jobs will also be created.

Senator for South Australia and Federal Minister for Finance, Simon Birmingham, spoke on the economic aspect of the Centre.

“The development of this centre is creating hundreds of local jobs and once complete will continue to deliver economic benefits to the state while offering visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves into the world’s oldest living cultures,” he said.

Through the Centre’s Aboriginal Economic Participation Strategy, these created opportunities will be aimed at First Nations people throughout the supply chain as the project moves into its construction phase.

Ambassador for AACC and leader of the Aboriginal Reference Group, David Rathman, said the Centre will “showcase” Indigenous culture, Country and “contemporary expression through education, performance, language, visual arts and the use of our wonderful and extensive collections with the use of modern and innovative technologies”.

“It will allow us to share our unique cultures and stories, while creating a lively and immersive journey together.”

Lendlease was further announced as the lead contractor for the Centre at its project launch. David Paterson, Managing Director, Building, Australia for Lendlease that the project holds national significance and said that Lendlease aimed to promote “First Nations leadership” and deliver “shared prosperity… around the country”.

The Centre, set to be open in early 2025 and funded by both the Federal and State governments, will hope to achieve an immersive experience of traditional storytelling utilising modern technology for an estimated 700,000 visitors a year.

By Aaron Bloch