50 Years of the Association of Consulting Architects - SA

David Hassell , 12 February 2014

The year 2013 marked 50 years since the inauguration of the organisation that became ACA – SA. David Hassell outlines the aims and major activities of the organisation over its first half-century.

Throughout its 50 years, the association has maintained a sharp focus on the interests of employer architects, its members. This was reflected in the original title of the organisation – the South Australian Practicing Architects Association, or SAPAA. Indeed, the first-named object of SAPAA was “the protection and promotion of the mutual interests of its members …”. In the early 1960s, the significant and worrying issue of concern for employer architects was the appearance of a Log of Claims before the Industrial Court lodged by the SA Architects, Draughtsmen and Tracers Association. These were the times of expansion and steady growth following the postwar baby boom period and unions more generally were seeking ways of expanding their influence. The Log of Claims had the potential to impact heavily on the running an architectural practice and presented a new and very different field of potential staff relations conflict, and cost, for architectural practice owners.

Inauguration and industrial agreement

The inaugural meeting of SAPAA was held on 8 July, 1963, with fourteen architects present representing most of Adelaide’s senior firms. This meeting had been called by a Provisional Committee, comprising Gordon Brown of Brown and Davies, Colin Hassell of Hassell, McConnell and Partners and Keith Neighbour of Cheesman, Doley, Brabham and Neighbour. The Provisional Committee in turn had been appointed by a meeting of employer architects held in October the previous year to consider a course of action in response to the Log of Claims before the Industrial Court.

Gordon Brown chaired the inaugural meeting, reporting that the Provisional Committee had sought advice over the preceding months from the SA Employers Federation. While the Committee had achieved some success in ameliorating the progress of the union claim, a Log of Wages and Conditions relating to architectural practices was, for the first time, imminent.

In light of this, the meeting agreed to form a representative body, the SA Practising Architects Association, and to the concept of a “Consent Award” based on the principle of negotiation as a preferred model. The meeting also agreed with the Chairman that it was important that the Association did not encroach on the functions of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects, which already had a Practising Architects Committee. Bob Hastwell was appointed as the Association Secretary together with the appointment of a Committee of Seven (refer Appendix).

Four subsequent SAPAA committee meetings were held prior to the end of 1963. Much work and debate was involved in the Association’s preparation and internal adoption of the ”Architectural Draughtsmen’s Agreement”, which was subsequently signed by both parties on 2 April, 1964.

The early years

In the years following the adoption of the Industrial Agreement, efforts of the SAPAA Committee were primarily focussed on managing, monitoring and implementing the Agreement. Matters to be dealt with covered a host of issues such as amendments to the Agreement, meetings with the Secretary of the Draughtsmen’s and Tracer’s Union and specific details of the coverage of the Award, for example the way in which female architects and student should be included. The other normal matters to be dealt with were refinement of SAPAA’s first constitution and rules, and terms of membership and subscriptions.

By 1966 SAPAA’s membership comprised 33 firms representing 76 employer architects. At this stage the Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen Association (AESDA) had sought and gained a 1½% marginal increase and had foreshadowed a move to take the Industrial Agreement from a State level to the Federal Court. And on a micro scale, the union was seeking to have the meal money allowance increased by $1.00 – subsequently agreed at 75c. To assist with industrial advice the Committee had engaged the services of the SA Chamber of Manufacturers, forming the beginning of a longstanding relationship between the two bodies. SAPAA’s operating costs were therefore increasing and subscriptions required adjustment accordingly.

A “Total Wage” concept was proposed by AESDA as a basis for assessing wage increases during the late 1960s and by the early 1970s the National Wage Case was also having an effect on wage outcomes.

The matters deliberated on by the Committee up to the mid 1970s involved dealing with often-complex industrial matters, but meetings were normally called on an “as needs” basis and were quite often required only two or three times a year.

Some of the issues arising during the mid-to-late 1970s included:

  • Protracted, but harmonious, negotiations with AESDA on industrial matters during 1974 and 1975, again incurring considerable professional fees for Chamber of Manufacturers advice.
  • The amendment of the Architects Act to permit, for the first time, the registration of companies and the increasing tendency of the practice of architecture by means of limited liability companies.
  • The “frightening increase” in wages rates in 1975 combined with one of the worst downturns in work yet experienced. This saw considerable staff layoffs, reduced working weeks and a letter from SAPAA to the Minister for Housing and Construction concerning the problems of the private sector.
  • Arranging various seminars on practice matters including “Maintaining Standards During Cost Squeeze Conditions” and Professional Indemnity Insurance.
  • The regular publication of the effect of changes in construction industry wage rates under the “Formula for Rise and Fall Variations” as a service to members.

By the late 1970s and early 1980s industrial matters were occupying a smaller proportion of SAPAA’s time but other issues were coming before the Committee for attention such as:

  • The incorporation of the Association in 1978 under the Associations Incorporation Act.
  • Regular meetings with the Master Builders Association to discuss construction matters and other areas of common interest, including the development of tendering guidelines.
  • Fee cutting, fee tendering and “unofficial competitions”.
  • The selection of architects by government organisations and the concern that procedures being adopted were not in the best interests of clients. This resulted in the preparation by Keith Neighbour of the document entitled “Guidelines for the Selection and engagement of Architects”,
  • Consideration of the Disabled Persons Act.
  • Senior representation at the SA Government’s Construction Industry Conference, these held as Industry Forums.
  • The impact of “design offices” on the flow of architectural commissions.
  • Keith Neighbour and John Morphett presented at a seminar on the “new” phenomenon of “Computers and Video equipment in the Office”.
  • Consideration of professional standards and ethical behaviour in the face of competition pressures.

Formation of ACA – SA

The most significant change to the structure and operation of the organisation was to occur in the mid 1980s in the light of a strong national push for the unionisation of architects. This occupied a significant proportion of SAPAA’s energy over two or three years. Seminars were held in an effort to update members on union demands for government legislation to ensure all employed architects were required to join the union on a no ticket – no start basis. This was a major change to the practise of architecture and foreshadowed the possibility of employee architects being required to be members of the union. There was talk of non-union architects not being permitted to enter building sites, and employer architects were becoming very concerned about the loss of control of drawing offices and potential cost ramifications.

The Architects Association of Australia (AAA) was soon established as the body to represent employee architects, becoming an alternative to the union-controlled Association of Draughting Supervisory and Technical Employees (ADSTE). Subsequently the Association of Consulting Architects of Australia (ACA–A) was set up as the properly constituted body to represent employer architects in industrial matters.

On a national front, ADSTE’s push for membership started in Victoria then moved to South Australia and the Northern Territory. In seeking to expand its membership, logs of claims, which were served on employers by ADSTE, were noted at the time as being “ridiculous”. These claims were pursued by the union in an effort to establish an award. Fortunately very few claims were recorded in SA.

Bob Hall and Alistair Angus were instrumental in representing SAPAA’s interests on these issues. Following close consultation with ACA-A, with many meetings both locally and nationally, an Extraordinary Meeting of SAPAA members was held on 21 August 1986, at which it was agreed that steps would be taken to affiliate SAPAA with ACA-A.

A year later, the local branch of ACA-A was formally constituted at an inaugural meeting held on 13 August, 1987, with the local branch to become known as  ACA–SA.  For convenience, ACA–SA’s committee comprised the same members as SAPAA’s committee. Elections saw Bob Hall continue in the joint role of Chairman of both bodies, and ACA–SA office bearers became Alistair Angus, Vice Chairman, Stephen Brooke, Secretary and David Hassell, Treasurer.

As well as time and energy, these structural changes required considerable funding and were a drain on SAPAA and ACA–SA’s limited resources. Representation and advice at an industrial level was expensive. Estimated costs for 1987 were $130,000. And, as for the creation of SAPAA 30 years earlier, the aspects of constitution, rules, membership briefings and the essential issue of membership levies had all been crucial matters both prior to and after inauguration.

The ensuing years

For about a year, meetings of the ACA–SA Committee were held immediately following SAPAA Committee meetings. Common sense soon led to combining meetings of the two bodies. Over subsequent years, the business of SAPAA reduced to just one item on the agenda – being to note that a meeting of SAPAA had been held as SAPAA was still the body responsible for continuing its part in the ongoing Industrial Agreement.

In due course, ACA–SA’s formal obligations as an industrial entity became far more strictly administered – elections were required to be administered according to the strict rules of the Australian Electoral Commission and Annual Financial Statements submitted to the Australian Industrial registry

While these changes were very evident, ACA–SA’s uppermost role in representing the interests of employer architects remained its constant and most important duty. But on this front also, the nature of many of the issues confronting the committee was changing along with the changing times. Much of this was to do with factors such as changed methods of project delivery and contracting, a transition towards project managers and their effect on the traditional extent of architects’ services and the continued move towards the computerisation of design and documentation in the drawing office.

A very brief summary of representative matters involving the Committee includes:

  • Continued membership of and consultation with the Chamber of Commerce (later Business SA) on industrial matters.
  • Regular meetings with consulting engineers groups, the RAIA and the Architects Board.
  • Real concern about the finances of the Association in the early 1990s as a result of the high national ACA subscriptions and associated legal fees required in order to represent members on industrial matters.
  • Ongoing liaison with the Australian Council of Building Design Professions. Along with the eight other professional associations, ACA–SA was able to develop a strong voice in matters of common concern and, along with the RAIA, took a leading role.
  • Continued representation on the SA Government’s Construction Industry Conference.
  • Ongoing meetings with the Master Builders Association and further refinement of the Tendering Guidelines booklet, a valuable resource for both architects and builders.
  • From the early 2000s, liaison with and submissions to relevant government departments on matters such as Prequalification and Qualification-Based Selection of architects, improving methods of secondary consultant selection and input into the Code of Practice for the Construction Industry. Also, representation in relation to the briefly proposed “incentive based” engagement of architects, lobbying on the new Occupational Health and Safety provisions for designers, and input into Work Choices legislation
  • Representation to client bodies regarding proper fee arrangements and onerous conditions of contacts.
  • Establishment of the ACA website, involving all state branches
  • Liaison with the Architects Board, RAIA and others on the proposed, but discontinued “deregulation” of architects flowing from the Productivity Commission review, and the subsequent introduction of the new Architectural Practice Act 2009

The above list suggests demonstrates the broad spectrum of activities. As Keith Neighbour had written many years earlier, the Association saw its role to “assist members to navigate their way through” these matters “to enable architects to be as little distracted as possible from their primary role of providing well considered designs, documents and other services to their clients”.

Primary contributors over 50 years

There is no doubt that the Association has been well served by its Chairmen over its 50 years of existence.

John Held, the current President, kindly agreed to stand following the sudden death of Keith Neighbour in office in 2011. Prior to this the remarkably small number of three chairmen had served the Association over the previous 48 years.

Gordon Brown

Gordon was the driving force in the initial establishment of SAPAA and served as its Chairman for the first 8 years, holding that office from mid 1963 until early 1971. Like others elected to the inaugural SAPAA committee, he was an early visionary within the Adelaide architectural fraternity and had worked diligently to establish a new practice following the war. He was also responsible for forming one of the first limited liability architectural companies in Australia during the mid 1950s. Gordon could foresee the critical nature of the union’s push for influence in 1962 and was instrumental in gathering compatriots to support the cause. He was the logical nomination by his peers to become SAPAAs inaugural Chairman.

Keith Neighbour

keith neighbour

Keith’s influence on the Association was unequalled, and was sustained over an extraordinary period. He served as Chairman for a total of 27 years in two spells, firstly from 1971 to 1982, and later from 1995 til his death in office at the age of 91 in 2011. His ability to maintain such a keen interest in management and practice matters over such an extended period was inspiring. Like Gordon Brown before him, Keith was a leader and a visionary.

After Bob Hall took the reins following Keith’s first period of Chairmanship in 1982, Bob noted in his Annual Report that Keith “had led the Association with vigour and wisdom” and that his Chairmanship had “been a veritable marvel of endurance”. Little did Bob realise at that stage, that Keith’s future role on committee would dwarf his past record. Keith served as either Chairman or Committeeman in every year following SAPAA’s inauguration , 48 years in total: a truly remarkable record and, as for other office bearers, entirely on a voluntary basis.

In addition to Association duties and running his architectural practice, Keith also found time to serve on the Architects Board of SA, including a period as Chairman, and as Chairman of the Australian Council of Building Design Professions, these amongst many other roles.

Bob Hall

Bob held the position of Chairman for 12 ½ years between 1982 and 1994. His term coincided with the volatile period of the union’s attempt to enlist architects as union members, and the ensuing period which saw the formation of ACA-SA. Bob played a leading role in resolving the complex issues during those turbulent times. Prior to and following his Chairmanship, Bob also served as a committeeman, leading to a total of 29 years on committee.  During his time as Chairman, Bob also served a term as state and national president of RAIA during what was an extremely busy period for him.

Bob’s contribution to the Association was significant on many fronts.

Two other major contributors to SAPAA during the early years were Committeeman Sir Eric von Schramek and Association Secretary Bob Hastwell.

Sir Eric von Schramek

2 - Unnamed

Sir Eric was elected to the inaugural Association committee in 1963 and retired in 1990 following committed and regular attendance over a 27-year period. Like Bob Hall, he was also a President of the SA Chapter, RAIA, and had a keen interest in contract and practice matters, both on the RAIA and SAPAA. Sir Eric became a Knight Bachelor for Service to Architecture in 1982.

Bob Hastwell

Bob was a member of the accounting firm of Bowering Duffield and Co when he was elected to the position of Association Secretary in 1963. At that time was already Secretary of the SA Chapter of RAIA and had earned a high reputation for his dedicated work, organisational skills and efficiency. As Secretary to other professional associations as well, Bob’s expertise was invaluable to the Association until his retirement in 1987, following 24 years of service. At the time of writing, Bob is the sole surviving member of the inaugural 1963 committee.

Other long-term contributors

Over the life of the Association, others who have provided extended service have included;

Stephen Brooke – 17 years from 1985 to 2003, including a period as Secretary
David Hassell – 18 years from 1987 to 2005, including periods as Vice Chairman and Treasurer
Graham Hardy – 19 years from 1994 to the present, and the current Secretary


SAPAA – Present at Meeting 8th July, 1963                                                                               

Gordon Brown, Chairman, Brown and Davies

David McMichael, EH McMichael and Harris

Edgar Barker, Dean W Berry, Gilbert, Barker and Polomka

Don Davies, Brown and Davies

Erick von Schramek, Bruer, von Schramek, Bruer and Dawes

Roy Wilson, Woods, Bagot, Laybourne-Smith and Irwin

Bob Freeman,  Stephenson and Turner

LK Kaines

Earle Scott, Jackman, Gooden and Scott

Allan Welbourne, Walkley and Welbourne

G (Bill) Laybourne-Smith, Woods, Bagot, Laybourne-Smith and Irwin

Dick Peacock, Woods, Bagot, Laybourne-Smith and Irwin

Colin Hassell, Hassell, McConnell and Partners

Keith Neighbour, Cheesman, Doley, Brabham and Neighbour

Bob Hastwell, Secretary, SA Chapter, RAIA


SAPAA – Inaugural Committee – Elected at Meeting  8th July, 1963                                                               

Gordon Brown, Chairman, Brown and Davies

Colin Hassell, Hassell, McConnell and Partners

G (Bill) Laybourne-Smith, Woods, Bagot, Laybourne-Smith and Irwin

Keith Neighbour, Cheesman, Doley, Brabham and Neighbour

Eric von Schramek, Bruer, von Schramek, Bruer and Dawes

David McMichael, EH McMichael and Harris

Bob Woodhead, Caradoc Ashton, Fisher, Woodhead and Beaumont Smith

Bob Hastwell, Secretary, SA Chapter, RAIA


ACA-SA – Elected Committee – Inaugural Meeting  13th August, 1987                                                          

Bob Hall, Chairman, Woodhead, Hall, McDonald and Shaw

Stephen Brooke, Secretary, Walter Brooke

David Hassell, Treasurer, Hassell and Partners

Alistair Angus, Woods Bagot

Eric von Schramek, Von Schramek and Dawes

Guy Maron, Cheesman, Doley, Neighbour and Raffen

Keith Neighbour, KMH Neighbour Lapsys

Gael Tilbrook, Minute Secretary, RAIA, SA Chapter

David Hassell is a long-standing member of ACA – SA and former managing principal of Hassell. This précis has been prepared based on minutes of committee meetings and AGMs over the 50 years as held by the Association. Thanks go to Bob Hastwell, John Held and Graham Hardy for their contribution in proof re