Latest news from the WA Chapter President, 2 May 2018

Hello everyone

As the year races by, it is time for another update from the Institute, which, as always, covers a lot of ground.

The year began with a sincere thank you and farewell to experienced Chapter Councillors Nic Brunsdon, Kate Hislop, Peter Hobbs and Kylee Schoonens, and a welcome to new members Louise Johnston, Rebekah Stuber and Clancy White. It is wonderful to see young architects interested and participating on Council. Thanks as always to ongoing councillors David Hillam, Ben Caine, Lara Mackintosh, Robert Slavicek and Amanda Hendry (President of EmAGN).

Strategic Plan
As many of you are aware there have been a number of positive changes at the national level of the Institute in the past couple of years. This includes the establishment of a new board of governance, new CEO and several other new senior staff.

The organisation is in a good place and at the start of the year, National Council adopted a Strategic Plan for 2018-2020, giving elected members and the Executive a clear vision for the medium term and an unequivocal focus on leadership, advocacy and member value. It identifies what is expected around our core business activities and how the Institute should ultimately become a more influential organisation. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the strategy on our website here.

As a Chapter Council we have worked within the framework of the strategic plan and selected the issues to work on this year – the things that are important to members. These are tough times for our profession in WA, so it is incumbent upon the Institute to advocate and support members as strongly and effectively as possible.

One of the most pressing issues right now is the procurement of our services – both at a local and state government level – and how current methods are impacting design outcomes and the integrity of architects. In February, John Langoulant released the findings of his Inquiry into Government Programs and Projects which referenced our own joint submission with Consult Australia, Association of Consulting Architects and Master Builders. I was fortunate to meet John through our involvement with the Rottnest Island Authority and was delighted when he agreed to attend a large practices forum at the Institute to discuss the Inquiry and offer honest advice on how we should progress our advocacy.

In line with our agenda on procurement, we are meeting with Ricky Burges, CEO of WALGA, to discuss the parlous state of local government procurement, affecting so many in our profession. We are also speaking with BMW about its procurement panels. The Institute has an opportunity to source from the membership, expertise and mentoring to assist a growingly inexperienced workforce in local and state government.

Practice Forums
In other states collegial and informal practice forums have become a wonderful way to share knowledge and experience with fellow architects. Following our very popular and productive call to arms at a Residential Architects Forum in February, we have set up a Small Practice Forum that will meet monthly. SPF is inclusive and open to any small practice director (roughly defined in WA as having 1-10 employees). The forum will be a great way to discuss and share information and ask questions of others. There will be regular presentations on important practice management issues and advice with things like leveraging off awards, websites, social media and branding. The meetings are confidential with no formal minutes, but any ideas and concerns raised will inform the Executive on future CPD topics and perhaps cross pollinate other committees. If you are interested in joining the SPF please contact the Institute. We are also here to help if regional practices would like to set up a forum.

Gender Equity
Continuing with our focus on equity in our profession, we held our inaugural International Women’s Day event on 8 March. This was an ideal opportunity to collaborate with our friends at the Planning Institute and Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. We held a fantastic lunch in the Institute’s courtyard with guest speaker Hon Cheryl Edwardes, former MP, WA’s first female Attorney General and professional all-rounder. Cheryl’s presentation was inspiring and practical and is still being talked about. Thanks to everyone who attended.

Our Gender Equity (and Diversity) Taskforce, chaired by Michael Gay meets monthly and is planning regular events for both men and women in the coming months. Our second #WorkWomenWisdom gathering will likely be held in May and will again be for female professionals (members and non-members). This time we will focus on the #TimesUp movement and issues around fairness, safety and equity in the workplace. We plan to have a representative from the Equal Opportunity Commission talking  about the legislation and the pathways for complaints.

It was good to see EmAGN’s mentoring framework launched after two years of development and consultation with programs in other States. In kicking it off, there were over 50 graduates and architects keen to be mentored and about a dozen more senior professionals willing to impart their wisdom. The document is available on our website and I encourage you to use it as a guide for any mentoring you need. If you require further information please call the office for assistance. As an added bonus, we are hopeful that the registration board will allow mentors to attain formal CPD points from participating.

In the pursuit of greater public attention, we have secured an arrangement with The West Australian’s Property Editor Helen Shield to provide at least 10 comment pieces in 2018. So far, we have had two articles published on the Langoulant review and another promoting the benefits of design competitions, following the Hilton experience in 2017.

We have also had some great traction in community media with regular columns in The Post about why readers should #useanarchitect, the value that we bring to a project and the scope of our services. Look out for my monthly column online and in the paper.

For the past three months I have been one of four hosts interviewing architects and their clients in the second season of ‘Australia by Design’. The show will be aired in June and July on Channel 10 and is a wonderful opportunity for us to tell an aspirational audience about the value of architects and architecture. We have had some ripper quotes from clients articulating really succinctly why they used an architect.

You’ve probably heard by now that this year’s Awards events are going to be a bit different. The exhibition will be held over a month at Garden City Shopping Centre, taking in the school holidays and hopefully some engaging activities for young people. The big night (29 June) will be at St George’s Cathedral for the presentations and in the Postal Hall for the after party. If you want to come I recommend booking tickets early because space is restricted in these venues.

We held the first in a new series of member sundowners in March and the second in April, with good turnouts in the courtyard. The next one is yet to be scheduled, but stay tuned, it would be good to see you there for a drink and a laugh.

Our collaborative series ‘Future Opportunities in the Built Environment’ continues and the last event looked at mental health issues around drug and alcohol addiction. A troubling issue confronting many in our profession, particular at the construction phase. The next event is being planned so again, keep a lookout for details.

In a tight market it may seem odd to be talking about doing pro-bono work, but an organisation called COLAB (formerly Australia’s Bridge) has been successfully sourcing professionals to undertake community projects that would otherwise go unbuilt. Founder Margot Mathews likens COLAB to the online dating site RSVP in the way it connects not for profit (profit for purpose is the correct new term) organisations with architects and engineers. The Institute has been helping COLAB for a few years and earlier this month my associate Cat Lee and I went to Fitzroy Crossing for three days to work with the directors of Marninwarntikura Women’s Shelter. This was a life changing experience – the opportunity to go to the country, to listen and provide our expertise, was truly uplifting.  I highly recommend talking to Margot to see how you can be involved.

That’s probably enough for now. Hope to see you at one of our events soon.

Suzanne Hunt FRAIA