Friday, 8 September 2017
Fellow Architects and Members
Before I was elected to Chapter Council I often reflected on the value proposition of membership. More bluntly, what is the Institute doing to improve the profile of architects? Six months into my presidency I believe we can confidently say quite a lot, so I thought I’d let you know what that includes.
As you know, the Institute is a national membership organisation with three overlapping strategic pillars: Advocacy, Education and Member Services. With the support of the WA Chapter Council I have been determined to focus on advocacy, to be seen and heard raising public awareness about our profession and increasing work opportunities for us all. I want the Chapter to be agitators and leaders arguing for better outcomes for our community, the built environment, and importantly, our membership. This is being achieved through better media relationships, more targeted political lobbying and making a stronger case for WA at National Council meetings.
Let’s have a look at what’s happened in recent months:
In May National Council adopted four new policies: Affordable Housing, Indigenous Housing, Multiple Residential Standards and Work Experience and Internships, all matters consistent with our local priorities.
Armed with this and plenty more to discuss, Michael Woodhams and I have been to see the Housing Minister Peter Tinley, Planning Minister Rita Saffioti’s staff, the Premier’s Parliamentary Secretary John Carey and Federal Member for Swan Steve Irons. In the coming weeks we have a meeting with Shadow Planning Minister Liza Harvey and have requested meetings with Local Government Minister David Templeman and Commerce and Asian Engagement Minister Bill Johnston. Our message to politicians is not just about what we want to change. It’s about how we can be part of the change process and help the new government achieve success. We are already seeing these meetings paying off.
With 1200 members locally we are relatively small among other built environment groups, so it is important that we collaborate with kindred organisations to improve our influence. Here are some examples:
• Curtin University – developing a background paper on affordable housing in WA to support our national policy;
• Department of Communities [Housing], Office of Government Architect and City of Fremantle – Hilton Design Competition [badged by the Institute] that will commission an architect to design social housing units on an existing site in Hilton. We are delighted that government departments are starting to value design quality and wanting to work directly with our profession to get the best result;
• Australian Institute of Building, Consult Australia, Engineers Australia and Master Builders – Future Opportunities in the Built Environment event series for the second year. Relevant and informative sessions that are also good for networking;
• Association of Consulting Architects, Consult Australia, and Master Builders – joint submission to the State Government’s Commission of Inquiry into Government Programs and Projects. It contained 23 recommendations on how procurement methods could be drastically improved and how government could be a better client. We know that procurement processes in government are a priority for members in the aftermath of recent experiences on major public works;
• Association of Consulting Architects – reflecting on ways to improve procurement issues in local government;
• Office of Government Architect – supporting the passage of Design WA and the mandatory use of architects on multi residential work. Also, making the case for retaining the OGA following recent funding cuts by the State Government. I encourage all members to support the OGA in any way they can.
• Tourism industry – exploring opportunities for architecture related tourism ventures. We have met with the CEO of Tourism WA and the CEO of award winning tour company Two Feet and a Heartbeat
To support these collaborations, we are establishing a calendar of architectural events across the profession. It will be ready very soon and available on our website. Please let us know if you have anything to add.
It is imperative that we have a strong architectural education system and we are working with the universities on research for local policy and providing opportunities for students to gain experience in practice before graduation.
We have also acknowledged the tough economic climate by taking the decision to lower the price of professional development seminars – something of a no brainer in getting extra people through the door and providing financial relief for a compulsory activity.
We are working with the Architects Registration Board to lessen the onerous re-registration requirements for those returning to the workforce after more than two years out of the profession. Anecdotally I believe that there is a direct correlation between this requirement and the loss of registered female architects 10-15 years after graduation.
EQUITY AND DIVERSITY
We are in the final stages of organising the first ever WA Parlour Session with Justine Clark in November. In October I am personally planning to hold an informal womens’ event which will be open to members and non-members. It’s starting a conversation about our shared experiences on things like work options, managing a work life balance, feelings of isolation and concern for our career trajectory after time away. Keep an eye on the e-comms for both events as tickets will be limited.
AWARDS AND OTHER EVENTS
The awards program is our most visible and constant activity. It’s also the biggest, making it one of the most difficult to render to everyone’s satisfaction. At both national and state levels, there is a review underway into all aspects of the program including the way we do the awards night. In the meantime, we have sneakily checked out a few alternative “architectural” venues to hold next year’s event.
Our end of year celebration event is on 30 November. Save the date.
We are proposing to hold an open member forum before the end of the year where members will be able to speak freely about any issue that challenges our profession. Keep an eye out for details. We would love as much feedback as possible so please come along and have your say.
I plan to publish an update like this on a regular basis to keep you informed and engaged. If there is anything I can do for you please email or phone. Your feedback is very important.
See you soon.
Suzanne Hunt FRAIA
Mobile 0419 967 582