From the National President

National President, Ken Maher. Photo by Brett Boardman
National President, Ken Maher. Photo by Brett Boardman

12 Sep, 2016

As you no doubt have heard through press releases or direct email, last week the Archicentre Board with the support of the Institute Board and National Council, made the difficult decision to halt trading of Archicentre, our wholly owned subsidiary, after 36 years of dedicated service.

Archicentre had achieved many great successes over the past three decades, offering building inspection services and concept design advice to the public who would otherwise be unlikely to work with architects, as well as bring changes to consumer awareness and protection. Unfortunately following considerable market changes, escalation in operating costs and the expiration of a valuable long-term contract, all resulting in an untenable financial position, the time had come bring things to an end.

I would, personally and on behalf of the Institute, like to thank the Archicentre Board, chaired by former President David Karotkin and also comprising Robert Caulfield, Michael Jones, Catherine Townsend and Guy Williams, for their hard work and service during a trying time over the past few years as they have sought to keep Archicentre operating successfully and acknowledge the vision and continued contribution of Robert, a founding Director of Archicentre.  The Institute extends our gratitude to the hardworking staff and all those associated with Archicentre for the wide range of valuable architectural services they have provided to Australians over the years.

Members seeking more information on the Archicentre announcement can read more here. While in the future inspection services will not be provided, the Institute is exploring ways in which our members and the public are supported by a range of design services facilitated through an expanded ‘Find an Architect’ program.

It is important to remember when facing these challenges the significant value of our Institute and its importance to the future of our profession.  As noted in our Annual Report we have been in a significant phase of transition over recent times with the review of strategic priorities, governance changes and the appointment of Jennifer Cunich as our new CEO.  Jennifer is working on building morale and capability within her team both nationally and in the chapters to ensure we have the greatest ability to serve the diverse membership we represent. Following the overwhelming support and subsequent passing of the amendments to the Institute’s governance structure at the AGM earlier in the year, I am pleased to announce we have our new Board of Directors in place.

As previously outlined, the Board consists of myself as President, Jon Clements as Immediate Past President and Richard Kirk as President Elect. Additionally I am happy to announce that National Council has elected WA Chapter President Philip Griffiths and National Councillor Helen Lochhead to join us and we have been successful in securing two excellent Independent Directors, Genevieve Overell and Sarah Richardson. Both have extensive board director experience particularly for government and not-for-profit groups as well as professional expertise across advocacy, marketing, legal and business development. There is one further board position which we hope to appoint shortly. I would like to thank my fellow directors for their generosity and commitment to the Institute, our members and the broader profession and I look forward to working with you and our colleagues on National Council as we continue drive positive change.

I am also pleased to note that we have already met our target for gender diversity by having a minimum three female and three male directors, a mandate not required until 2017 but great to have achieved early.

This new governance structure will place the Institute in good stead to move forward as an organisation and better deliver our new strategic plan which focuses on the three pillars of membership services, advocacy and education. The priorities for the Board centre on compliance and performance, in particular the Institute’s financial and legal requirements, while National Council will be driving our strategic direction and policy development. However, the two governing bodies will be working very closely together on this new journey.

We are currently working on how this might be facilitated through rethinking our meeting cycles and the possibility of establishing forums between National Council and renewed national standing committees and task groups.  I will keep you updated on our progress on this.

In an article in the Australian Financial Review last week, Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation the Hon Angus Taylor MP, who was presenting at a CEDA conference in Melbourne, elaborated on the government’s City Deals scheme.

It is encouraging to see the government’s commitment to collaboration between state, local and federal governments which is vital for better infrastructure investment outcomes. It is not only the funding of infrastructure that is critical – equally important is the planning of infrastructure as an integral part of the planning process.  The NSW Government’s introduction of the Greater Sydney Commission provides a promising governance model for this. NSW is also leading the way in the introduction of design quality as a consideration in the planning system.

A key focus for our advocacy platform is to articulate the essential value architects can contribute in delivering higher quality and more sustainable towns and cities. More specifically, we will be engaging with the Minister and his staff regarding the opportunity for architects to provide advice on assessing these City Deal projects to ensure long-term value through quality urban design outcomes.

We also applaud Minister Taylor for his emphasis on long-term strategies and the need to respond each city’s unique requirements – be they regional or capital centres – to ensure they meet the needs of citizens, and sustain their distinctiveness. We look forward to more detail on the scheme and will be actively pursuing our policy agendas in this space, and to identify increased opportunities for architects in these public projects.

National President
Ken Maher