President’s Comment – August 2023

John Held , 2 August 2023

It’s been a busy month of advocacy for the ACA. National President John Held outlines some of the ACA’s current advocacy work and emphasises the importance of collaboration when trying to make a difference.

To be heard you need to shout louder.  To advocate on behalf of your members, you need either mates in the right places or a large PR machine and lobbyists walking the corridors of power.

Does that mean a small organisation like the ACA should not even try to represent the interests of both its members and the public that architects are supposed to be serving? Our members tell us that advocacy is important, and that our voice should be heard. If our voice is part of a bigger conversation, it becomes easier to make a difference.

Recently the ACA has been part of a number of advocacy campaigns, both at a State and Federal level. In most cases this has been in conjunction with other organisations and individuals, so that is where our voice and message is reinforced by others.

At a State level, the ACA is involved in ongoing discussions with government bodies and other organisations on a diverse range of issues, including contracts, procurement, mental wellbeing and building reform. The recent forum in Victoria on the state of the construction industry, which had over 400 registrations, is a good example of working with other organisations in order to be heard.

We are fortunate that within ACA we can call on committed people within our branch committees to contribute to advocacy. Our recent submission on the responsible use and regulation of Artificial Intelligence relied heavily on the expertise of Fabricio Siqueira from the NSW/ACT branch. Will it make a difference to policy? At least ACA is now invited into the wider conversation and a series of “town hall” fora, which will shape government policy.

At other times, it is more important to reach out much wider. Parlour approached us recently on the subject of Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property (ICIP)  in Standards Australia contracts (see the latest Deadly Djurumin event on this topic). We suggested taking this to the Australian Construction Industry Forum (of which the ACA is a longstanding member), as it affects a much wider group than architects and gives more weight to a submission when approaching an organisation such as Standards Australia.

Often policy advocacy is a matter of connecting the dots. We were recently approached by Alison Cox of NSW TAFE to lend support to a change in the National Construction Code regarding All-Gender Bathrooms. This is something that we had raised with the ABCB previously without success, but with a wider group of organisations working together, it has become an issue that can’t easily be ignored.

The ACA can engage in advocacy in many ways, by itself and with others. A collaborative approach is the best, but clarity of voice and message, and a goal to improve policy, will hopefully be more effective than confused shouting.