At the end of a year so clearly marked by the concept of distance, what I believe will stay with us most powerfully here at the Institute and across the profession is a greater connectedness than ever before.
The work of members is increasingly shaped by resilience – and it is this defining quality that has been so clearly on display in the way we have come together and responded to the many challenges of 2020.
This reflection does not downplay the magnitude of the difficulties – both personal and professional – that many of us have confronted, and indeed may still be grappling with, in these most unprecedented of times.
Rather it is a recognition and celebration of the strengths and successes achieved in the face of adversity, of which there have also been so many.
First and foremost is the continued leadership, passion and pragmatism with which we have confronted the need for greater and more urgent action in response to climate change.
The architectural community’s capacity to lead and drive meaningful change in this sphere cannot be understated.
The devastation from the bushfires that began the year galvanised the profession and the broader population in a renewed push for reform. The Institute will continue to advocate for necessary changes to ensure a regulatory system that is fit for purpose, protects consumers and prioritises quality and safety – be that in a natural disaster, cladding-type-crisis or other context.
The bushfires also demonstrated architects’ deep connection to community, as well as a far-reaching willingness to give back and build a better future that must again be commended.
At the same time our sustainability efforts of recent years coalesced in 2020 into further concrete steps forward – from the establishment of the Climate Action and Sustainability Taskforce to our own carbon neutral commitment.
Going into 2021 we will continue to champion even greater ambition on the path to a carbon neutral future.
Of particular importance this year was the members’ overwhelming vote in support of amending our Constitution to include a ‘Statement of Recognition’. Agreed at the AGM, it was developed by the newly established First Nations Advisory Working Group and Cultural Reference Panel who are also guiding the development of a Reconciliation Action Plan for the Institute. Ongoing, the Working Group, with support from the Panel, will also provide guidance on the inclusive involvement of First Nations peoples in both Architectural education and the Institute’s services, programs, activities and governance, as well as any other issue or activity identified for consideration.
Through close and constant communication with our members earlier in the year we were able to quickly formulate an evidence-based economic stimulus package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The quality of this advice was evident in the many recommendations adopted and implemented by government at all levels across the country.
I again thank our members for participating in the work that goes on to support the Institute’s efforts in this and myriad other ways. Your expertise and engagement amplifyies our capacity to be agents of change on your behalf.
Some of the toughest times, such as the Victorian lockdown, became a catalyst for policies that will deliver a legacy of benefit that stretches across generations, such as renewed investments in social and affordable housing by so many state governments around the nation.
And of course investments in showcasing local architectural talent, most notably with the design of the new NGV Contemporary, could not be more welcome.
Our efforts to improve government procurement and novation practices are making slow but steady progress and this is a mountain we will continue to chip away at.
Similarly, we are holding fast to our principles, commitment to due process and a robust defence of our nation’s extremely rich architectural tapestry and heritage.
Whether it’s taking the Treasurer of our most populous state to task, or continuing our campaign to save Anzac Hall from the scrap heap, the Institute will raise its voice as both a fair and fearless force in the nation’s discourse.
We will continue to call out procedural and policy failures where we see them – such as the Commonwealth Government’s continued refusal to commit to a net zero emissions target.
At the same time we will engage constructively to advance the interests of members and the community alike, applauding good policy where we see it.
Most importantly we will keep seeking out new ways to best support your practice of architecture.
For now, on behalf of the Institute, I wish you a restful, and most importantly a safe, festive season.
Take care, stay connected and I look forward to launching into the new year full of fresh opportunities with you.