ACA NEC Update – Hobart 2023

Susie Ashworth , 24 August 2023

The ACA team was delighted to head to Hobart recently for a two-day strategic meeting followed by a series of meetings with leaders in the Tasmanian architectural community and a member lunch. A highlight of the trip was an informative and very moving presentation on The Voice by Rodney Dillon of the PM’s First Nations Referendum Working Group.

The National Executive Committee meeting was attended by the wider ACA team, including our National CEO, Branch Presidents and Executive Officers from around the country.

Rich, wide-ranging conversations covered everything on the business of architecture from advocacy to contracts, tools and practical templates and documents. We also discussed our ongoing commitment and prioritisation of research, industrial relations, HR and workplace advice, mental wellbeing, regional practice, equity and First Nations knowledge.  We were also delighted to announce the endorsement of the ACA’s Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

Tasmanian discussions

On our final day, we heard from leaders in the Tasmanian architectural industry on some of the challenges, benefits and opportunities in running a Tasmanian practice. The wonderful Helen Norrie of the University of Tasmania shared some of her research and wisdom about regional practice. We were also grateful for the contributions of Brad Hooper from the ACA’s new Regional Practice Working Group, who zoomed in from Maldon in Regional Victoria.

It was timely to identify shared challenges and opportunities to work and advocate together with Tasmanian AIA Chapter President Megan Baynes and Executive Officer Jennifer Nichols, and to have thoughtful discussions with current AIA National President Stuart Tanner, a longstanding and supportive ACA member.

Scott Balmford of Terroir and the City of Hobart Urban Design Advisory Panel shared his experiences of working in practice and government, while Yvette Breytenbach and James Morrison discussed the challenges of navigating government procurement processes. Ongoing challenges were raised for discussion and strategies shared.

Seeking representation

VIC/TAS Branch President Paul Viney and the VIC/TAS Committee anticipate that this is just the first step in re-invigorating the ACA’s relationship with Tasmanian members and the broader profession on the Apple Isle. We encourage Tasmanian architects to consider joining the VIC/TAS Committee to ensure appropriate representation and knowledge sharing. If you are interested in finding out more, contact Katherine Ygosse.

At the same time, the ACA has recently established a Regional Practice Working Group, led by Michel Greenhalgh (Bunbury, WA) and Brad Hooper (Maldon, Victoria) to provide guidance and advice from the perspective of our regional members.

The number of regional ACA members is growing, and we aim to focus our efforts to provide relevant, targeted resources, practical information, advice and advocacy to support healthy and thriving regional architectural practices across Australia. Get in touch with Michelle Eades if you’re interested in getting involved.

Rodney Dillon and The Voice

Another highlight of our trip to Hobart was a generous, compelling presentation by Palawa Elder Rodney Dillon, who is a Member of the PM’s First Nations Referendum Working Group, Chair of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Heritage Council and Indigenous Advisor to Amnesty International.

We opened our discussion of the upcoming Voice referendum with a reading of the Uluru Statement of the Heart by five audience members. If you haven’t read the Statement yet, it’s a brief but powerful statement that is well worth reading.

Rodney shared the history behind The Voice – the years of hard work and the hundreds of people from a multitude of community groups coming together at Uluru to discuss the best path forward. He outlined the systemic and ongoing problems for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples around Australia, particularly health, housing, education, employment and juvenile incarceration. He discussed the enormous amount of money already allocated to First Nations issues. But without proper consultation –  a Voice – it is often wasted. He spoke of the 10-year-old children in prison, removed far from their communities with no one at their side. “Prison guards don’t make good mums and dads.” He described feeling invisible and unrecognised in Australia – “The only place we show up is in statistics, and they’re pretty bad ones.” He highlighted the desperate need for change.

Tasmanian State Coordinator of the YES campaign, Marta Hodul Lenton spoke eloquently of the need for us to understand our history and support our First Nations people. “I think that we’ve got something really special here with the oldest continuing culture anywhere in the world – and with stories and history and knowledge that will help us to better live in this place. And we’re already starting to see that being taken up and understood and learned a lot more every year.”

But something needs to be done with the ‘architecture’ of our legal system and our constitution, Marta argues. “There is no mention or acknowledgement of the fact that we actually have First Nations people in this country… and there is no framework for consultation when government is making laws and policies about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which we do every year.”

“They do that without any way of having proper expert input from the people… And you can see the results, as Rodney has talked about, you can see that those policies are failing. And probably a roomful of architects has got views and experiences about consultation and when it works, and we know that when there is that input from communities, from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities into decision making, you get better outcomes on the ground.”

For more information on The Voice, see the resource roundup in our First Nations Understanding portal.

National Executive Committee 2023: John Held, Matthew Thomas, Kukame McPierzie, Ivana Simkovic, Gilda Donegan, Angelina Pillai and Paul Viney.

Photos: Nina Hamilton