CEO Update - June 2019

Angelina Pillai , 5 June 2019

ACA CEO Angelina Pillai takes a look at the big issues of concern to members, the ACA’s ongoing work in advocacy, future plans for research and a state by state wrap.

These past couple of months I have been interested to hear what our members and colleagues have been saying about the architectural profession, the challenges that practices face and, most importantly, how the ACA can provide the best support to members. Your responses were multifaceted…

Real and present challenges were identified, including fee-cutting, documentation quality, keeping businesses in the black, adherence to compliance, procurement practices, gender equity, toxic cultures, long hours/low pay, mental health and the general vagueness of brand architect. Many declared a lack of appreciation by everyday citizens on the contribution of architects and good architecture in our communities in helping them live more meaningful, impactful lives. Worse was the ignorance of the role of architects by other professions and professionals, which was deemed frustrating and financially draining.

The social and economic value of architecture is undeniable. The long-term effects on wellbeing that can be attributed to living, breathing, working, existing in well-designed, well-constructed, compliantly administered and sustainable built environments seems obvious. But not everyone gets it.

The architecture profession needs to take this brand awareness much wider than the confines of the converted and start to push the boundaries elsewhere. Perhaps less preaching to the converted and more educating the masses?

Industry Events

I had the good fortune to attend the ArchiTeam conference on 24 May with the outstanding speaker Flora Samuel. She reminded the audience that the problem with architecture is we don’t speak to other fields enough; not just others within the construction industry, but other professionals in our communities. Her message was that diverse ideas are more innovative.

Such was the case at this year’s BILT conference, which ran from 23–25 May in Melbourne, and for which the ACA stood as a proud industry partner. The event brought the built environment community together with a diverse program of content that helped facilitate an open and generous learning experience among a range of professionals, all working towards a better, smarter industry, and a stronger, more sustainable built environment.

ACA Online Forum

I am delighted to report that the ACA’s three-week online Sustainable Archi Futures Forum has started to tackle these issues head-on, with the key feature to look to the future rather than looking backwards. Michael Lewarne from the ACA – NSW/ACT Committee has been instrumental in creating this forum, whose mission is to challenge the culture of the architectural profession and the culture of building more widely.


Working with other parties is also high on the ACA’s advocacy agenda. The ACA is pushing hard for the full implementation of the recommendations of Building Confidence, the Shergold Weir report released in 2018. We are collaborating with relevant industry bodies to present a consolidated clear voice at a national level, while each branch is working to support implementation at a state level. 


On the research front, the ACA is in the early stages of scoping a research project looking at architectural fees, documentation quality, building quality and procurement. The aim is to develop robust analysis of the intersections of fees, time and quality, outcomes of which the ACA could use to advocate for better processes. Dr Peter Raisbeck from the University of Melbourne was appointed as ACA Research Director and will be leading this research on behalf of the ACA.


With the World Health Organisation officially classifying burnout as an official medical phenomenon, architects need to be vigilant and informed. We are seeing an increasing number of architects facing long and gruelling hours in running and directing their businesses. The ACA’s latest piece on Avoiding Burnout, by Dr Peter Raisbeck, identifies the stress factors and offers some basic tips on self care. We have also published a range of articles and interviews tackling the issue of mental health this month.

ACA Insight National Webinars

On 27 May, Rachael Bernstone presented a thoughtful webinar on how architects can communicate the value of their work to clients, consultants and the general public. She took an in-depth look at communications, campaigns and case studies, and a breakdown of how to approach and engage with the different types of media available today and how to incorporate them into your communication plans.

For more details on the ACA webinars, visit the Insight webinar pages on the ACA website.

2 - SA Roundtable

Builders and architects talked novation at the latest round(or rectangular)table discussion in Adelaide.

State by State Wrap


The industrial relations subcommittee of our Vic/Tas branch has worked with Platinum Employee Relations in preparing submissions for the Fair Work Commission hearing on the Architects Award and attended the hearing held on 13 May. Submissions covered five issues: updating the clause for equipment to bring it into line with technological changes in the working environment; addressing the issue where graduates of a bachelor’s degree in architecture fall outside the definition of the Architects Award; rates for graduates; superannuation funds; and Time off in Lieu (TOIL) and Termination. We will advise our membership of the outcome of the hearing once announced.


On 17 May, the QLD/NT branch had a luncheon presentation on Building Communities with keynote speaker Brook Monahan, Founder and Managing Director of Mosaic Property Group. Brook shared how he operates his property business from the perspective that healthy communities are powerful contributors to good business.

On 21 May, we ran our first event in Darwin. Jointly hosted with the Australian Institute of Architects and Planned Cover, the event attracted over 40 attendees.


The Business of Small Practice (BoSP#3) event on 10 May discussed helpful strategies to improve your bottom line. The speakers shared their own experiences and learnings, delving into topics relating to culture, leadership and client relationships. The event was sold out and even attracted last minute walk-ins, demonstrating how popular this topic is. The ACA is aiming to expand this event nationally, with South Australia running a BoSP event in August.


On 15 May, the committee ran another successful roundtable in Adelaide. This time, architects and builders came together to unpack the risks and rewards in the novated design and construct environment. It was a fruitful discussion, with many agreeing that the key to better outcomes is early, meaningful engagement and communication, and a clear project vision. You can read Mario Dreosti’s event recap here.


With the challenges to the planning system in NSW, Chris Horton and Tim Shaw provided valuable advice on the NSW Land and Environment Court and its relevance to architects on 1 May, covering the process, the preparation of documents for court, and taking the stand as an expert witness. The Sydney event had an excellent turnout, with 50 attendees, and plans are already underway for Part 2 later in the year. Michael Lewarne offers insights about the event here. The NSW/ACT branch also launched Version 2 of the ACA Short Form Client Architect Agreement on 5 June (see Michael Lewarne’s review here).

Get Involved

For other professionals and the general public to understand the value and impact of this profession in their lives now and in the future, we need to amplify the message of the value of architecture to a national, broader audience. The ACA is mandated to support and advocate on behalf of architectural practices, so the larger our membership base, the stronger and more credible our voice we will be… Find out more about joining the ACA and getting involved.

3 - Building Communities

Bruce Forrester, Mason Cowle, Bram Chapman and Jenni Pentz at Building Communities in Brisbane.

Top: Guests arrive at Whispering Smith in Fremantle for the BoSP3 event, Money Matters.

Photos: Kelsey Jovanou, Sascha Byrne and Louise Street.