The Presidents Prize is an honour awarded to an individual or company for outstanding achievement or contribution towards the profession over a period of time.  It is also an honour to be able to select the recipient and bring focus not just to the individual, but also to the area in which the recipient works and provide a platform for further advocacy.  The Prize was recently presented at our End of Years Honours event at the Capitol Theatre.


For some 65,000 years First Nations peoples have occupied this land we call Australia and developed a myriad of distinct cultures and languages foundered on a sustainable relationship with the environment.  Since European colonisation, these cultures and their attitude to the land, sky and waters has been marginalised and left to wither in the context of a dominant western culture with a largely singular, industrious attitude to the land.  Our western culture has been slow to engage with and appreciate indigenous cultures and specifically the wisdom and benefit of Caring for Country.  This attitude is slowly changing but to be nurtured it needs knowledgeable champions who defend, protect and broadcast indigenous knowledge.   In a major step for our profession, the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia introduced in 2021 a series of competencies recognising First Nations principles of designing for Country into the National Standard of Competency for Architects.  The broader community imperative to engage with indigenous wisdom and knowledge has now been amplified into a professional requirement for architects.


This year the recipient of the President’s Prize is an outstanding leader of indigenous culture and has poured her heart and soul into explaining and teaching our community, and specifically our profession, at length about Caring for Country and promoting indigenous knowledge, so it is only right and proper that this individual be recognised for her herculean efforts and honorary contribution made to educating our profession.  This year’s President’s Prize is awarded to Sarah Lyn Rees.    Congratulations Sarah!


Sarah Lynn Rees is a Palawa woman descending from the Trawlwoolway people of north-east Tasmania. Sarah is an architectural practitioner, academic and writer. She is a prominent advocate and advisor with a firm commitment to Indigenising the built environment.  Sarah is a Senior Associate and the Lead Indigenous Advisor at Jackson Clements Burrows Architects and also teaches Indigenous studies at Monash University.  However her day time jobs are just the foundation for a vast array of voluntary and honorary positions.   Sarah has been co-chair for the last few years of the Australian Institute of Architects’ First Nations Advisory Committee, was 2013 Vice President of SONA, has served on the Victorian Chapter Council as SONA representative and later as an elected Chapter Councillor. Sarah curates the Deadly Djurumin Yarns which won this year’s media prize, is a program advisor and curator of the BLAKitecture series for MPavilion, a Director of Parlour: Women, Equity, Architecture, sits on the Living Cities forum advisory panel  and is a member of the Victorian Design Review Panel for the Office of the Victorian Government Architect. Sarah is widely published in architectural media, and speaks regularly at architecture and design conferences both locally and internationally and mentors young and emerging Indigenous architects. Her current research focus is on developing resources for built environment practitioners to improve collaborative engagement processes with Traditional Owners and Indigenous communities throughout each stage of architecture from appointment to completion.   Sarah works tirelessly, and selflessly, and I can see that she is only at the beginning of the monumental task of Indigenising our built environment. She does not strive for personal accolade, but does this out of an inherent kindness and responsibility to Culture, to Country, and to Community.


Sarah, you and your work are an inspiration to us all.


David Wagner FRAIA
President of the Victorian Chapter


This form is now closed.