Thank you Mark Williams

20 September 2018

Mark Williams has been ACA – QLD/NT President and National Treasurer for the past four years and Vice President of the QLD/NT branch for the preceding two years. We thank him for his hard work and commitment. As Mark steps away from his leadership roles, he reviews his time with the ACA, the challenges the local industry faces, and the ACA initiatives working hard to address them.

I joined the ACA on 1 July 2007, and since that time have seen the ACA – QLD/NT grow into a much larger, busier branch with an extensive calendar of events and a wonderful, supportive camaraderie among its members. I have also seen the national body develop into a thriving industry association that has doubled its membership in the last six years, expanded and maintained its offering of member services, had a strong focus on advocacy and engagement, and worked hard at raising awareness of the issues surrounding the business of architecture.

Today, in Queensland we have 11 sponsors and planned events generally once  a month. These include specific events to help members with their business, with speakers discussing topics such as safety in design, risk, legal issues, insurance, contracts, client service agreements and other documentation. We also organise site visits to showcase members’ buildings or other interesting local projects. Highlights for me have been the ABC Headquarters and Lady Cilento Hospital. Corporate partner lunches are always enjoyable, as is our famous annual trivia night.

The Salary Survey has been a big member service that the QLD/NT branch manages. It’s been going since 2013 and is due for an evaluation and refresh as we go forward. Another key achievement for us is the development of the HR documents, which are a valuable resource for members. Something we’d like to pursue further in Queensland is connecting more with architectural education providers about how we can build relationships between students and business, and improve the work experience available for students before graduation. We’ve already had roundtable discussions with representatives from several universities, but would like to follow up with a survey of students and member practices.

It’s been pleasing to see more engagement and alliance with other industry associations in recent years. We maintain connection with the Australian Institute of Architects by having a committee member representing the ACA at the Institute’s Queensland chapter Practice Committee. We have also aligned with the Queensland chapter of the Institute recently with a joint BIM Taskforce, which is exploring the steps required for the industry to be BIM ready in the coming years as the government develops its BIM policy proposing that projects delivered by the State Government would require BIM deliverables where feasible.

There have been many significant challenges for architects in Queensland and the Northern Territory. An issue of national importance that is equally compelling for us is fee setting, but understanding the cost of architectural services is not an easy thing to pin down – particularly with differing processes, technology, experience, clients, councils and locations. You’re kidding yourself if you think you can have one set fee for architects. But at the same time, ensuring our businesses are profitable is essential for their survival. That’s why the ACA’s time/cost calculator guide has been so popular and so beneficial for members.

Another big challenge in our region is the tyranny of distance. Our members are spread out throughout Queensland, which is a very long state. The Northern Territory is even further removed. Technology really helps us in that regard, and the webinars have been terrific for members in remote regional locations. It’s important for the ACA to be connected and relevant for an architect in Brisbane, but also for one in Roma or Darwin. It’s not like they can just pop along to an event. We have found that it’s important to invest in travel to the more remote locations where possible. Last year I visited Darwin for the first time to meet with Steve Huntingford, our ACA – NT representative on the ACA – QLD/NT Committee; Andrew Broffman, Australian Institute of Architects NT Chapter President; and Joshua Morrin, the Institute’s Executive Director in NSW (formerly NT). My visit was to explore the opportunities for the ACA to build support and develop relationships in the far North. It was great to see the camaraderie of the Territorian architects as they work in such a remote location.

The ACA helps members face challenges by connecting them with other architects and support services like Planned Cover, providing peer support wherever possible, offering webinars, business tools and relevant events that address the ever-changing challenges of business. Red tape doesn’t stop, industrial relations is always changing, and advocacy with government is an important role of the ACA.

As I look back on my time in leadership roles with the ACA, perhaps my biggest achievement is a national one – taking on the role of Treasurer. It was a lot of work and I was on a very steep learning curve, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made, converting a one-page Excel spreadsheet to a much more detailed, easily tracked system that can generate reports and is consistent and easily understood.

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank all the Committee members that I have worked with. You can’t do what we do without them. Vice President (now new QLD/NT President) Rob Wesener has always been willing to step in and help when I wasn’t available. Executive Officer Louise Street continues to be a significant support for our branch, which punches above its weight. Nationally, former President Steve Kennedy was focused, driven, optimistic and great to work with. Under his watch, we saw the ACA grow and become an active voice for architectural businesses. More recently Kieran Wong brought a different flavour to the national presidency, continuing to drive initiatives Steve promoted.

In the future, I will be continuing my involvement as a Committee member of the QLD/NT ACA branch, working with new President Rob Wesener and Vice President David Porgand.  I look forward to meeting ACA members at future events.