Jennifer Cunich – the changing face of your Institute

SPEECH
NATIONAL ARCHITECTURE CONFERENCE:PRAXIS
SYDNEY 5 MAY 2017

Jennifer Cunich
Chief Executive Officer, Australian Institute of Architects

Good morning,

I wanted to speak with you today about the changing face of your institute and your place in it.

I am privileged to be the CEO of the Institute. It is a complex organisation with many sub-groupings, and to say that we are a diverse organisation would be an understatement. We need to acknowledge, understand, accept, value, and celebrate the differences among our members and use it to our advantage.

I believe the Institute has a number of things that it needs to focus on, but all revolve around our members.

We should be working actively to advance the practice of architecture and promote the contribution of the profession as widely as possible. We also need to cultivate lifelong learning by our members and allow members’ aspirations to flourish.

Sustaining the integrity of the profession must be at the heart of what we do, and we need to champion professional and ethical conduct. But most importantly, we need to take the lead in advocacy of, and for, the profession.

As part of the not for profit sector, the Institute plays a role in society by giving voice to communities of place and of interest and contributes to a more involved Australian democracy.

Change has become ubiquitous. We’re now in an environment that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. In the past we have not reacted fast enough to the changing environment nor have we been visible in the way members expected of us.

We must be agile in the way we do things, and be the voice of the profession. We must take a strong stand when we see our values being compromised.

The governance changes that have been put in place within the organisation signal a significant change to our operations, as does the way we are approaching issues around education, advocacy and membership.

On the education front, we have taken a strong stand on the standards of education we require of architectural graduates.

We do not agree with the lowering of educational standards to the lowest common denominator level – and we will continue to maintain a strong stance to ensure this does not happen and that the accreditation process remains robust enough to satisfy international benchmarks.

Advocacy.

We will be mounting a campaign over the next few years in terms of advocating the value of architecture and the impact it makes on people’s lives – this will be at the heart of all our messages to the public and to government. We will be more outward facing in our activities to ensure that those messages are heard loud and clear.

We will also be providing guidance on what our views are – from our recent discussions on affordable housing, multi-residential standards, higher education and internships policy. We will be addressing the issue of a federal government architect and will be making sure that architecture is seen as something that is for everyone. We will also be constantly talking about the value of the architectural profession to the health and well-being of society.

We have taken the opportunity to raise our profile through political forums, media opportunities and submissions to government at a federal and state level.

In terms of membership, we are looking at ways to improve our service delivery in a number of areas, including CPD and member communications through the use of vastly improved technology. We also appreciate the need for authenticity which means a return to the basics and a focus on the humanistic aspect of being and running the Institute.

We have the fundamentals in place:
• A shared vision for the future
• A new strategic plan under development
• An understanding of the political, social and economic environment in which we operate

What we now need is member engagement in making it happen. Every member brings a potent combination of passion and influence to her or his membership that — if leveraged — can powerfully accelerate the Institute’s advocacy strategy. As an institute we have been quiet for too long, relying on others to have a voice. We need you, as members to engage in the political debates. We need you to represent the profession in whatever way you can.

The most effective Professional and Industry organisations have recognised that successful advocacy does not require stepping into the quagmire of partisan politics. It simply means using our voices as committed and informed champions of the profession. All of us are the ambassadors who can bridge differences in opinion, turn ideas into solutions, and make good things happen.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak with you today.