Stalled plans to build a “globally significant” First Nations cultural centre in Adelaide’s CBD have been dealt a fresh blow, with the federal government understood to have rejected a South Australian government request for additional funding.

The decision casts further doubt on the future of the $200 million Tarrkarri Centre for First Nations Cultures – a building once touted to be an international tourism drawcard for SA, but which for the past 18 months has remained a hole in the ground

Work at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site was put on hold in October 2022 following a $50 million cost blowout and state government concerns the building’s design was “substandard”

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas said in May last year the project could cost up to $600 million – three times the amount currently budgeted by the state and federal governments. 

The North Terrace location of the planned Tarrkarri Centre for First Nations Cultures.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

He asked the federal government to boost its $85 million funding contribution, and sought additional cash from private companies and philanthropists.

But ABC News understands no extra money has been allocated for Tarrkarri in Tuesday’s federal budget.

In response to ABC News’ request for comment, a spokesperson for federal Arts Minister Tony Burke said budget details would be released on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, South Australian Treasurer Stephen Mullighan said he would “wait and see” whether the federal government had allocated additional funding for Tarrkarri.

“The premier’s obviously been speaking with the federal government about a range of different state government initiatives that we would like the Commonwealth to partner with us on,” he said.

Under an Adelaide “city deal” signed in 2019, the federal government committed $85 million towards Tarrkarri, with the remaining $115 million budgeted by the SA government.

‘Potential’ announcement to be made in SA budget

Tarrkarri was slated to be bigger than the SA Museum and the Art Gallery combined, displaying tens of thousands of Indigenous artefacts currently sitting in storage.

The former Marshall Liberal government said the institution would be “globally significant” and draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.

After the cost blowout, the Malinauskas Labor government commissioned former Indigenous Australians minister Ken Wyatt, former New South Wales premier Bob Carr and former investment banker Carolyn Hewson to conduct a “high-level review”, with their findings handed to the state cabinet in April last year.

The development of the Tarrkarri Centre for First Nations Cultures has been plagued by delays.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Last week, Kaurna elders said they had been kept in the dark about the future of Tarrkarri.

“It’s like a graveyard dug for our culture,” Kaurna elder Jeffrey Newchurch said.

“We’re left here to flounder over dollars.”

Mr Malinauskas told ABC News last week that the Kaurna community was “certainly” consulted during the review.

Asked if the public would find out more about the government’s intentions for Tarrkarri in next month’s state budget, Mr Malinauskas said: “Potentially yes”.

“We’re working through all the numbers,” he said.

“There’s a balance to be had here — we’ve got to make sure that the taxpayers’ interest is best represented, that we’re fiscally prudent, but thirdly, of course, that we don’t compromise the quality of the outcome.”