Advocacy has been the key word for the Institute these past 18 months and the last few weeks have been no exception. Much of the credit for the great work being done goes to the Committees. Every member of Chapter Council and each of the Committees have been busy – full time – dealing with both the short term issues and the long term concerns of the profession. With so much going on I can only hope to give you a flavour here.
Examples include the tireless work being done by the Practice Committee in areas such as procurement (including providing leadership to State Government Workshops on better processes and better outcomes for the procurement of buildings as well as services). Work with the Ministerial Construction Council also continues including the potential changes to the National Construction Code and a review of the role of developers in the building industry.
The work being done by both the Heritage Committee and individual AIA members on State Heritage listings is also notable. Current applications include; the former Methodist Church Mareeba (Eddie Oribin), the Carpenter-Hall House (Russell Hall), the former Methodist Church Ashgrove (James Gibson at Cross and Bain) and Reconciliation Rocks Cooktown (as a cultural place of state significance). There is also the World Monument’s Fund application for the former Wests Showroom in the Valley (Karl Langer). This is highly technical and tireless work and all those involved deserve special mention (perhaps a topic for another day.) With so much of our post war heritage both unlisted and vulnerable, listing and protecting our post war heritage looms as a huge challenge for us in the years to come.
Of course the AACA’s review and our inputs to it continues (Education), work on Sustainability issues including simple but effective initiatives such as bringing back genuine natural ventilation to class 2 buildings (Climate Action and Sustainability) also continues, as does advocacy around equity and diversity and the push to develop more standards in these areas. (Equity Diversity and Inclusion) whilst membership growth in both the SONA and EMAGN cohorts in Queensland continues to lead nationally.
Discussions with regional members have led to several letters (Townsville and Toowoomba currently with the Sunshine Coast to follow) encouraging local authorities to consider their own city/regional architects offices. The input of our regional members in these areas will now be critical. Our support and advocacy for the Gold Coast City Architects role has been rewarded with the news that Jemima Rosevear has been announced as their new city architect. (Credit to the GCCC for their ongoing support here). Meanwhile we continue to engage with the State Government on the process to find a new Queensland Government Architect. In support of our capital we have been contributing to the Brisbane City Centre Action Plan workshops.
Of course (outgoing National President) Alice Hampson’s great work is also beginning to bear fruit with her initiative to ensure more Architects are recognised in Australia Day and Queen’s Honours awards lists. The work of Paul Memmott (AO) being an exemplar here and five more architects being honoured over this last June Queen’s Birthday weekend. Meanwhile John Macarthur (Neville Quarry Award) and Don Watson (AIA Gold Medal) have been recognised by the AIA for their lifelong contributions to excellence in their fields. We are also engaging on issues such as accessible housing, an initiative which frustrates some members but which is vital in ensuring our housing is robust and sustainable and that issues like aging in place will be possible into the future. For members it will also ensure clients have another reason to use the skills and knowledge of an architect.
Somehow, beside all of this, the primary focus remains the ongoing advocacy around the Australian Building and Construction Board’s proposed changes and updates including; the National Registration Framework (NRF) and the definitions of ‘complex buildings’. The National Registration Framework in particular remains a concern as the recognition of an architects; education, documented knowledge, experience, competency and our role as independent consultants (supported by the various acts of State Parliament and our codes of conduct under the remit of the various Boards) are yet to be formally recognised by the changes to the NRF despite the evidence and ongoing advocacy around the direct public benefit and benefit to confidence in the industry. A renewed push to communicate directly to decision makers and those who may have influence is now underway at a national level. Our approach looks to include allied parties including; the various Boards, the AACA, the ACA with the input of various Government Architects offices. (All of whom have been collegiate, constructive and active with us. We must thank them and acknowledge them for this collegiality and interest in the public benefit.)
I would add here that as an individual member if you felt driven to write direct to ABCB Board members, to remind them that; the premise of the Shergold Weir report and the proposed changes to the National Construction Code are about protecting the public interest and bringing confidence back to industry, nothing less than ensuring the most experienced, competent, educated and independent consultants in the process (Architects) remain the primary consultant for the most complex buildings must be a keystone of change. . . how could I stop you?
Is there any more? In the past few months Brian Hooper became our first regional member to become a National Councillor! Brian will be a valuable voice for the regions and Queensland at National Council. Meanwhile, the regional awards programme for 2021 has just concluded (including face to face events) and it has been a resounding success. Far North Queensland held the largest regional event (surpassing Brisbane) and our outward focus on clients and finding a voice in the media again sees Queensland lead the country in media coverage. We expect to meet or exceed our 2020 achievements where Queensland had nearly 2/3rds (63%) of all media – nationally! The current data for just the Queensland regional awards coverage (to end May) shows a total Audience Reach to date of 51,231,682 million unique views (approx.) and an Editorial Value of $417, 560 (approx.) Staying on the awards, a programme to (re)introduce Queensland plaques (for awarded buildings) and medals and medallions for the award winners is underway and the State and National Awards loom.
On the administrative side the search for a new Queensland HQ, a new Chapter Manager and staff continues. During all of this, the staff and leadership group have also found time to deal with the fallout from, and members needs around, the ongoing pandemic.
This has been an incredible 18 months. What we have seen in that time is the ability of both members and staff to rise to the challenges that both the public and the profession are faced with. The work continues.
Dr Michael Lavery, FRAIA