Victorian Building Reform Forum recap

2 August 2023

The ACA VIC/TAS branch committee was delighted to work with the University of Melbourne to host the recent event, Victoria’s Future Cities, Suburbs and Building Reforms, held at the Melbourne School of Design on 20 July. The event was well-attended and raised important issues regarding the need for urgent building reform in Victoria.

VIC/TAS President Paul Viney, Melbourne School of Design’s Dr Kirsten Day and Dr Peter Raisbeck, and advisor Peter Lochert were instrumental in driving the Forum’s agenda and working with industry and government stakeholders to identify urgent key reform issues. Katherine Ygosse provides a recap.

View a video recording of the Forum here

In an environment of reform and with the passing of the Building Legislation Amendment Act 2023 on 1 June 2023, important questions were raised about consumer protection, building industry governance and the role of developers, contractors, architects and consultants. This event looked at the complex landscape of issues in play for consumers and industry that need urgent attention to improve outcomes.

Close to 200 attendees filled the lecture theatre with representatives from organisations and businesses from across the built environment sector, government and education. The Victorian Minister for Planning, The Hon. Sonya Kilkenny MP, was scheduled to open the Forum but unfortunately was a late apology due to illness.

Discussion points were initially shaped by a pre-event survey conducted by the University, canvassing construction industry bodies, stakeholders and attendees. The findings identified key issues facing the building and infrastructure industry in Victoria, and suggested measures that could be implemented to effectively address the issues.

After introductions by Dean of the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning, Professor Julie Willis, and Melbourne School of Design lecturer Dr Kirsten Day, moderator Peter Maddison jumped straight into the discussion with panellists. Our featured panellists were Michaela Lihou, CEO of Master Builders Association of Victoria; Tom Trevaskis, CEO of Burbank Property  Group; and Peter Elliott, Architect and Founder of Peter Elliott Architecture and Urban Design.


Some of the key issues raised included –

  • How does Victoria catch up to NSW standards with their introduction of the Design & Building Practitioners Act?
  • The need for good procurement practices to ensure good outcomes.
  • The increased risk from partial services leading to poor documentation, in a context where novation is common practice and over half the income from half of architects are from novated projects.
  • Inconsistencies in submission requirements for works spread across various government Ministries/ Departments and the need for more consistency.
  • The need for a coordinated approach to fair and insurable contracts, with some current contract issues pushing risk to parties less able to carry that risk.
  • The de-skilling around contract administration.
  • Risk to builders being passed down to subcontractors and a race to the bottom in outcomes and sustainable business.
  • Contract and lending environments not allowing for feasibility of projects.
  • The risk to the consumer of cost-plus contracts.
  • Reform and compliance fatigue; acknowledging the related cost increases for both consumers and industry through frequent regulatory and code changes and updates placing additional requirements on industry with increased complexity.
  • Affordability issues where demand outstrips supply and a transformative change is needed to ensure affordability.
  • Ensuring knowledge is up to date and aligned through mandatory CPD across the whole industry and trades.
  • The shortage of skilled trades and only a small percentage of apprentices completing their training.
  • The opportunity for research to add value by capturing knowledge from post build issues and inspections; and outcomes and costs of policy changes and reforms.
  • Problems of the planning system.

The event was wrapped up with a call to action from former architect and former Premier Ted Baillieu, asking what it will take for the professions involved in the building industry to speak up on building issues. He highlighted that Australia has some of the highest construction costs in the world without the corresponding best builders and outcomes. He referred to the need for bipartisan inquiry models to address the worldwide phenomenon of the Building Safety Crisis, as it is known in the UK.

After the formal panel discussion, attendees, guests and panellists continued to discuss the issues over refreshments in the foyer.

Along with the University of Melbourne, the ACA thanks all of our attendees, guests and panellists for their participation, and all those individuals and organisations who responded to the pre-event industry survey.

After this introductory event, we aim to hold future sessions with industry, government and educational institutions to continue this important discussion, and to identify possible solutions and recommendations.