Public servant, professor, pioneer: Architect Fiona Gardiner wins 2021 Paula Whitman Leadership in Gender Equity Prize

Celebrating a career that has paired extraordinary service to the architectural profession, and heritage architecture in particular, with championing other women, the Australian Institute of Architects is today awarding Fiona Gardiner the Paula Whitman Leadership in Gender Equity Prize.

Tony Giannone, National President said “Congratulations to Fiona on her significant contribution to the profession and for providing visibility to the contribution of women in architecture and our Australian society, in so many regards a long overdue celebration.”

Announcing the prize at a special International Women’s Day event, Jury Chair and Inaugural Recipient of the Paula Whitman Gender Equity Prize Catherine Baudet LFRAIA congratulated Gardiner for her outstanding leadership and advocacy.

“Fiona Gardiner is a pre-eminent and respected role model for women who has consistently demonstrated relevant, sustained and active leadership,” Ms Baudet said. 

Now an Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Queensland’s School of Architecture, Gardiner completed her architecture degree at the University of Queensland in 1978, graduating with only two other women and despite the obstacles for women in the construction industry at that time.

Gardiner completed a master’s degree in conservation at York University and returned to Queensland with this expertise at a time when the state’s historic buildings were under threat from the Bjelke-Petersen government.

“Gardiner navigated a challenging working environment in the public service with professionalism and grace, showing the world that women were valuable team members and great leaders,” Ms Baudet said.

“She advocated for other women and worked to develop and implement non-discriminatory policies.”

In 1983, Gardiner was the inaugural president of Women in Architecture, a group formed to raise the profile of women architects through exhibitions, events and radio interviews. She was involved in the first women architects’ exhibition and arranged for female architect international speakers at local conferences.

“These early years of promoting women architects provided the foundations of an attitude that has been fostered since then and passed on to the many women who have encountered her,” Ms Baudet said.

Gardiner went on to become the chief executive officer and director of heritage at the Department of Environment and Science. Awarded the Public Service Medal, she created a flexible work environment for employees to accommodate family demands.

She has contributed to the identification and promotion of the hidden heritage of women in Queensland architecture through exhibitions, heritage listings and the protection of their work. She has helped to develop official policies promoting heritage protection within government agencies and the local community over many decades. She further lifted the profile of heritage through partnerships she formed across government, communities and universities. The Fryer Library at the University of Queensland has benefitted enormously from her heritage research.

Ms Baudet was joined on the Jury by Kylie-JoAnn Hughes RAIA, Chair of the National Committee for Gender Equity, Erin Crowden RAIA, Past EmAGN President and Senior Architect, Proske Architects, Leanne Haidar of SJB Architects and past SONA President and Alison McFadyen, Parlour Representative and Associate Director, Stallard Meek Flightpath.

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