President’s Wrap Up

Thursday 21 December 2017

Hello everyone

Thanks for taking the time to join me in reflecting on 2018. As always, we packed quite a lot in, but several things stood out in our pursuit of a better built environment.

I hit the ground running back in March just after Trump was inaugurated and a new State Government was elected – the perfect storm you could say. It has been a vertical learning curve and as patience is not one of my strong suits, and bureaucracy my pet hate, I have learned new skills and been excited by the opportunity to advocate for our profession.

It was important to the Chapter Council that we become more targeted and louder, to be seen and heard as leaders and agitators. We want to produce practical outcomes and argue for change wherever possible. We also want to be better at telling you what we are up to on your behalf, and engaging you in the communications process.

We appear to be gaining traction in all parts of the media and next year we hope to be a more regular feature in the comment pages. Australia by Design, hosted by Channel 10, was very successful this year and featured a number of worthy projects and their architects. It was recently approved for a second season and I am looking forward to participating on WA’s behalf once again in the new year.

We have been spending a lot of time with Members of Parliament and senior Government people to help raise public awareness about the value of architecture and architects. They have all been very receptive, but I single out Hon Peter Tinley, Minister for Housing for showing a great interest in our causes. We are also getting to know Hon Liza Harvey, Shadow Minister for Planning, who is equally supportive and keen to be involved. It is great to have such a high level of engagement from both sides of politics.

Each MP or leader in government we meet gets a goody bag that includes:

  • policies on affordable housing, indigenous housing, multiple residential standards and work experience and internships;
  • our Chapter’s state-wide research on affordable housing in WA, commissioned in association with Curtin University earlier this year;
  • a national advice paper on non-conforming building products;
  • our joint submission on public procurement to the State Government’s Commission of Inquiry into Government Programs and Projects. We were delighted with the effort put into this by our friends at the Association of Consulting Architects, Consult Australia, and Master Builders;
  • copies of The Architect magazine – always the pressie that gets the oohs and aaahs!

But it’s not just about policy. Our message to politicians is also about how we can be part of the change process and help government achieve success.

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. Watch out for some planned networking and mentoring events in the new year with the Planning Institute of Architects and Australian Institute of Landscape Architects.

The Hilton Design Competition with the Department of Communities, along with the Government Architect and City of Fremantle, has been a great example of willingness to bring good design to social housing and cooperation between government and the professions. Well done to Bernard Seeber and his team on winning this momentous competition and congratulations also to the other shortlisted entries by David Barr, Jennie Officer and Trent Woods.

Next year we will be focussing on the procurement of architectural services, particularly at local government level, We will also be encouraging the State Government to proceed with Design WA and to continue funding the Office of Government Architect as the lobbyist within government for better outcomes in public architecture.

For many of us the tendering process for professional services at local government level leaves a lot to be desired. It often leads to poor design and less than favourable financial outcomes as local councils struggle with an inherent lack of experience and understanding of process. We would appreciate any feedback that you have before we take on this task in 2018.

Anyone who has had dealings with the State Government this year knows that Metronet is its highest priority and we have been invited to professional information sessions to offer our services and expertise. Watch this space.

We continued our successful and very popular ‘Future Opportunities in the Built Environment’ event series with the Australian Institute of Building, Consult Australia, Engineers Australia and Master Builders and will do so again next year. These are relevant and informative sessions that are also good for networking. Please keep an eye in the e-news for details.

Our second strategic pillar Education is ably supported by the Education Committee headed by Dean Wood, and assisted by the two academics on our council Lara Mackintosh and Kate Hislop. It is imperative that we have a strong architectural education system and the Chapter is working on strengthening our relationships with the universities and ensuring that students are well accommodated by their institutions and the Institute.

I am very proud to be the first woman President of the chapter. Not only is it an important step for the Institute, it gives more presence to our gender equity ambitions around pay equality and flexible working arrangements. And, as the mother of 3 boys, it is important that male architects also have the opportunity to participate more in family life, parenting/caring roles and to enjoy a healthy life balance. We have been very busy in this space.

We are working with the Architects Registration Board (ABWA) 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, and may be why more new fathers are not stepping out of the workforce. We appreciated a recent hearing from ABWA and hope that they will be able to review their policy as soon as possible. We have also raised the matter with the responsible minister, Hon Bill Johnston.

We recently held the first WA Parlour Salon event with Justine Clark and I was delighted to participate in a conversation with Emma Williamson sharing our stories of progress in the profession. And just a week before that I personally held the first in a new event series called ‘Work Women Wisdom’ which was open to female members and non-members with an architectural degree. It is 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. 150 amazing women attended the event at my home, ranging in age from 21 to 71, including six young women from Curtin who helped out. The event has led to friendships, new contacts and as an added bonus, five of the students received internships. The positive feedback has been overwhelming and I can assure you that will be more in 2018, for both women and men.

Please save the date for our inaugural International Women’s Day lunch event on the 8 March.

Earlier this month the Federal Government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency revealed statistics on gender pay gaps that support our concerns for women in the profession. Nationally we are rolling out the architectural Champions of Change program and we are asking large practices to consider taking this up. I know Peter Lee and Greg Howlett have promised to help get it started.

The awards program is our most visible and constant activity. It’s also the biggest, making it one of the most difficult to deliver to everyone’s liking. While next year’s planning is in its early stages, what I can say is that the events will be a little different than in previous years so I hope that excites you. For a start, it will be held in the city centre.

Membership is our third pillar and one of the most important things in this space is having a structure that recognises the modern makeup of the profession. The plan is to have a new set of membership options and a new management system in place by the time renewals come out for 2019.

We look forward to welcoming new chapter councillors next year and urge you please to vote for those standing. I would like to thank Peter Hobbs for his 6 years of service and other retiring councillors Nic Brunsdon, Kate Hislop and Kylee Schoonens for their input over the past few years.

To our members and supporters, chairs and members of committees, I thank you all for your continuing support and patience as the Institute makes progress on all of the issues I’ve mentioned.

Finally, I would like to thank the Institutes staff, Michael Woodhams, Kim Burges and Adriana Chiera. They continually provide invaluable advice and support and have been very accommodating of my wish to change some of the ways we do things here.

I hope you find some time to relax in the next few weeks and I look forward to seeing you in the new year.


Suzanne Hunt FRAIA

Mobile 0419 967 582