Message from the Victorian Chapter President

I hope you are well and managing given the current circumstances.

Four months in and it is evident that this new normal has certainly distorted our understanding of what the immediate future holds. We are receiving varied feedback from our members acknowledging the underlying anxiety and daily confusion caused by the pandemic.

Humans are incredibly resilient; however, I think we need to recognise that those next to us may not be coping as well as it seems so it is important to reach out where we can.

This is my final message as President as I take up the role as Immediate Past President. I feel like this is going to be a long one so brace yourselves or jump to the heading of choice.

2020 VICTORIAN ARCHITECTURE AWARDS

A huge congratulations to all award recipients. This year we saw a total of 234 entries with 108 of these shortlisted. Across 15 categories 63 awards were given including named awards, architecture awards and commendations. With the ever-increasing need for advocacy across a range of issues it was wonderful to see the Bates Smart Award for Architecture in Media reintroduced this year. And as it is difficult not to reflect on statistics, since the introduction of the Victorian Medal in 1935 we have seen our first female led practice awarded this prestigious award. Congratulations to Kerstin Thompson Architects.

Despite the very trying circumstances and the need to quickly adjust the awards format due to COVID-19, a wonderful by-product is the broad reach that the awards were able to achieve through the online announcements broadcast live and free on the Institute’s YouTube Channel. In Victoria the awards have received over 5,000 views and the entire Chapter program nationally received over 20,000 views. We see this as an important step in being able to broadly advocate for better built outcomes for our cities and regions. Congratulations to the 2020 Victorian Awards recipients.

Building victoria's recovery taskforce

In May, the Institute, PIA and AILA met with the co-chairs of Building Victoria’s Recovery Taskforce and collaborated on a joint submission. We urged the State Government to not only meet the urgent need for stimulating the design, development and construction sectors, but also to use the packages as an opportunity to create a positive long-term community legacy.

HOMEBUILDER GRANT

In June we partnered with ArchiTeam and the ACA in a response to the HomeBuilder program, calling for a broadening of the eligibility requirements in order to maximise the consumer and community benefit. The Institute is currently working with MBVA to progress this issue.

COVID-19

The Victorian Chapter has been meeting with the VBA and DELWP and other industry bodies to discuss the issues associated with COVID-19. This includes evidence of practices reporting projects being put on hold or withdrawn entirely indicating diminishing project pipeline and employment in the future. The ACA survey provides evidence and the Institute is undertaking additional surveys.

The VBA has recently issued new COVID-19 Guidelines for the Building and Construction Industry in Victoria. This provides important guidance and protocols for workplace safety measures and other matters such as undertaking site inspections.

Building ministers' forum

The Building Ministers Forum, on the back of the Building Confidence Report, has initiated a major review of the building industry sector wide. As a consequence, the Chapter has been presented with requests to partake with enquiries for recommending proposed changes in policies for improving the industry standards. Rather than having a negative impact on the architectural profession it should be viewed as an opportunity for positive reform.

These areas will include advocacy of improved procurement of architectural services, agreements and contracts. Also proposed are requirements for industry participants to meet specific qualifications of a National Registration Framework including specific codes of conduct. The architectural profession has an established and extensive institutional framework including the National Standards of Competency for Architects, the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia, the Association of Architecture Schools of Australia. This extensive capacity will assist the profession to meet the requirements for improving the building industry. 

Draft code of novation

We are in the final stages of progressing the draft National Code of Novation that was instigated by the Victorian working group including ARBV, Planned Cover and the Victorian Large Practice Forum Ambassador Firms Bates Smart, Cox, DCM, Hassell, John Wardle Architects, Lyons, Woods Bagot and ARM. The National Novation Survey that was undertaken in April 2019 highlighting the need for the introduction of a Code of Novation. This body of work has allowed us to advocate broadly to government and industry partners the need for reform in a proactive manner.

We have continued to actively advocate to government for fair and equitable contractual arrangements in order to provide a level playing field for all involved. Since the initial draft was tabled at the Building Minister’s Forum held in Canberra in December last year, we have progressed to the consultation stage. Collaboration is key, we welcome your input on this significant advocacy piece.

We have established a road map for the next steps in undertaking further consultation with other industry and professional bodies. From there we will move towards the critical step of endorsement.

CHAPTER PRESIDENT AND INTERIM CHAPTER CHAIR

Past Victorian President Rob Stent LFRAIA has stepped in to provide support as an Interim Chair as I step down from Chapter President. In the role of Immediate Past President, I remain involved with Chapter Council and ongoing liaison with industry partners and government agencies.

Rob has offered his assistance over the next three to six months in an advisory role to support Chapter Council and the process of appointing a new President, Vice President, State Manager and the role of a policy and advocacy advisor. Rob has significant advocacy experience and will be the spokesperson for the Chapter during this time. I’d like to say thank you to Rob and a big welcome; we very much appreciate your support during this time.

The Victorian Chapter staff, with Michael Linke’s operational leadership and support, and with the support of our national teams, will continue to provide ongoing service to our members whilst navigating the continually changing landscape that we currently find ourselves in.

A final message

It has been a wonderful few years in the President role however the lie of the land has been incredibly challenging due to the myriad of issues that the construction industry is faced with.

During this time, it has been rewarding working collaboratively with the Institute staff, Chapter Councillors and members on a number of varying fronts in order to make incremental improvements within our industry, advocating for better built outcomes, holistic reform to support this and to find ways to collaborate more broadly.

Namely these areas include the National Novation Survey and the advocacy associated with this, the establishment of a Code of Novation, supporting changes to the National Gender Equity Policy, supporting the review of the Architects Act and communicating clearly to government the fundamental failings associated with current contractual arrangements and the detrimental impact that these are having on the quality and safety of our built environment.

It has been wonderful working closely with the OVGA, AILA, PIA, ARBV, DELWP, Creative Victoria, CoM, ACA and VBA in order to find ways to support one another.

My hopes for moving forward is to broaden our relationships at a state level and to continue working with government to make holistic and positive change for our state’s communities.

This is the time to be building sustainable and caring communities.

This is the time to be building for legacy through activity not building activity for activities sake.

Every opportunity is an opportunity for getting it right.

In order to do this in the most effective manner we need to be operating as a united front. We need to be working together as an industry and actively supporting each other. More now than ever this is the time for action.

Strength in numbers. A collective voice.

A very special thank you to Institute staff especially Caitlin Sinclair, Jason Stanton, Leanne Hardwick, Julia Cambage, Michael Linke, Emma Adams and Sanja Novakovic.

Finally, I would like to thank Rob Stent, Jon Clements and Carey Lyon for their recent support in the transition from state president. Thank you to the members of Chapter Council for their significant contributions, friendship and support. And lastly past President Vanessa Bird for her guidance and counsel over the last few years.

Wishing everyone a very safe second half of 2020. Take very good care.

Amy Muir

Immediate Past Victorian Chapter President