National President's Message 10 October 2016

Friends and colleagues,

When an entire state is shut down due to a freak weather event it literally provides some precious hours to put modern life into perspective. With absolutely no power, there were no traffic lights, street lights, phones, phone connections, media, entertainment, ipads, computers and for a short while even social media…so it was candles, stories, an open fire, a nice bottle of red wine and marshmallows at our place.

Not only did the good folk of SA survive (I even saw a t-shirt badged ‘SA, Heaps Dark’ at one stage, a take on the ‘SA, Heaps Good’ thing a few years back), we have more or less survived the endless politics of the generation vs distribution debate, and the unfortunate inference that renewable energy was to blame (all the power gurus agree it was a distribution problem). The 23 collapsed transmission towers in various grotesque shapes tell the story well in my view.

Whilst parts of regional South Australia were without power for days, and there was significant damage around the state, the effort of authorities to turn the power back on in Adelaide in such a short time was incredible.

In many ways, traditional forms of infrastructure are increasingly fragile and complex, and our collective efforts to diversify and increase opportunities for new technology and more sustainable forms of power generation might actually reduce the need for vast, expensive and complex infrastructure.

I know of one family who are completely ‘off grid’ not far from me in the Adelaide Hills, and they didn’t notice the power failure. The relevance here? Increasingly landscape architects, as we all know, are at the forefront of making our cities better places, and with less than 3 weeks until the 2016 International Festival of Landscape Architecture (Not in my Backyard!), there’s never a better time to reflect on society and our own ‘backyard’.

To matters pragmatic: although the main Festival venue (the Gandel Hall at the National Gallery of Australia) is sold out there are still a handful of tickets left for the James O’Fairfax Theatre where the conference is being live-streamed.

There are also some really exciting public activations happening around the festival including KIDSCAPE and #BackyardExperiment.

KIDSCAPE is a major public event taking over Canberra’s Haig Park on Saturday 29 October and will provide children of Canberra with activities that will inspire, excite, generate imagination and encourage kids to ask questions that start conversations focused on urban design, living in an urban environment and how they see the future of their city.

#BackyardExperiment is an observational study of public life. Cameras will be set up to watch and understand how people use a space in three different scenarios; existing, with the addition of moveable chairs and vibrant elements, and with pop-up activations including coffee and gelato stands. One of the main outcomes for this project will be answering the questions surrounding how the public react and interact to moveable furniture. Can we live in a city that provides more flexibility in the way we want to interact with it.

In an AILA first, we will also be offering fast track membership for eligible senior entrants at the Festival! ‘Fast tracked registration’ is open to qualified landscape architects with at least eight years’ experience. This takes away the application process and time involved and lets you apply and interview in one go. The interview panel will be ready and waiting so all you need to do is let us know you’re coming in advance, arrive with your application and sit your interview.

As you know, AILA released an anniversary film as part of our 50th birthday. We’ve now released an extended edit of the film, featuring more member interviews which contribute to a more rounded telling of the profession’s story. Click here to watch the updated film.

Further reinforcing the Board’s focus on best practice governance, the proposed AILA Draft Code of Conduct is now out for your feedback here. The review ensures AILA’s Code of Conduct accurately reflects the standards required of Australian landscape architects. It articulates guidelines for acceptable standards of professional practice for landscape architects, and the Board will have regard to the Code when investigating complaints made against landscape architects. The new template is quite a significant departure from the current Code of Conduct we have in place. On this basis, we would appreciate your feedback and comments. If you have any concerns please make contact.

I am also pleased to report that last month the Board endorsed a ‘Conflict of Interest’ policy, which is designed to help the Board (and any Committee members) to effectively identify, disclose and manage any actual, potential or perceived conflicts of interest in order to protect the integrity of AILA, its members and manage risk. Whilst it applies specifically to the Board and delegated Committee members of AILA, it will include members on juries, sub-committees, working groups, taskforces, committees, state executives and the like. Conflicts of interest commonly arise, and do not need to present a problem if they are openly and effectively managed. The Conflicts of Interest policy aims to promote transparency, awareness and effective management when indeed potential conflicts do arise. Please check it out here (and available on our policy webpage here when logged in).

As always, please drop me a line if I can be of assistance or advice, or contact the National Office. I always appreciate feedback and contact, and please continue to tweet and FB your views to @AILA_National and @DJB_LA.

Daniel Bennett

National President

Australian Institute of Landscape Architects

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