From the National President – October 2012

It’s hard to believe that we’re already in October and commencing the official count down to the National Awards which take place in Perth on 1 November. It is apt that we start this quarter celebrating Australian architecture on the global platform at the 2012 World Architecture Festival (WAF) in Singapore, where I am fortunate and happy to be representing the Institute, this week. This is the first time WAF has been held so close to the Southern Hemisphere, and it’s fitting that we highlight Australia’s architectural talent with particular reference to our key role in the Asia Pacific marketplace. Congratulations to all of the Australian practices who have been shortlisted in this important world festival and live awards competition.

Still thinking about our international presence, the Australian exhibition at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, FORMATIONS, continues to draw great crowds as visitor numbers have reached 20,000 in the first 4 weeks. The FORMATIONS exhibition focuses on and draws attention to the breadth of non-traditional practice formations operating in Australia, illustrating the diversity of architectural practice and practitioners here.

Diversity in our members and their work is an important area for the Institute to support and acknowledge, and I am pleased to offer a brief report on the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project: ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work, and Leadership’, in which we are an industry partner. Women have made an enormous contribution to the practice and discipline of architecture in Australia for more than a hundred years, however we remain dramatically under-represented at senior management level and in professional leadership roles. In response to this, in 2010 a collaborative group of scholars from five universities across three states were successful in applying for an ARC Linkage grant for the project ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work, and Leadership’.

The project aims to map women’s participation in the architectural profession in Australia and understand why women are under-represented at senior management level; to identify actual and perceived barriers to women architects’ promotion and progression, and identify examples of good employment practice in architecture. One of the project’s key outcomes will be a draft national policy on equity and diversity in the architecture profession for the peak professional body, the Australian Institute of Architects.

The Institute continually strives to effectively recognise the diversity of Institute membership, and I am delighted to announce the recent development within the membership structure, of a Parental Leave membership provision. In order to facilitate career pathways and ‘on-ramps’ for women in architecture, and to support both genders in balancing work and life, National Council resolved at its last meeting to change the membership policy to extend Parental Leave provisions to cover members whose primary role is in caring for pre-school age children. The Parental Leave subscription rate will be available to members whose work in architecture is limited to 20 hours per week because they are the primary carer of one or more children aged 5 or under. Another key change was that parents can enter as new members under this scheme, whereas previously parental leave was only open to those who had been members for a number of years.

The Parental Leave subscription rate is generally set at 25% of the full Member Level 1 rate and evidence of eligibility is required. Please contact the Membership Team for details of how it works. I hope this will mean that more women can join the Institute or remain as members when they take time out of full-time paid work to care for their children.

Shelley Penn