Directors Message - 2 July 2019


I have often heard the saying ‘you get out of life what you put in’ and in truth, while I understood the sentiment, I never really thought about the reward it implied. 

Reflecting on my other passion, hockey, shone a light on the wonderful opportunities that have come out of giving my all to causes I care about. I continue to play the sport to this day, and in the past, have been on committees and coached and managed teams. My involvement in the hockey community sparked enriching moments in my life, but none so important as when I moved down south (WA) to start a regional satellite studio. In the beginning I found patriating in a new place was more difficult than I initially thought it would be. My husband and I didn’t have children, so my only social connections were fostered through work colleagues and players in the hockey club we joined. My love of the game soon guided my natural inclination to get more involved by coaching juniors, volunteering to assist the club’s many fundraisers and attending a variety of events. Giving so much of our time enriched our lives and our efforts were rewarded. When the locals saw how engaged my husband and I were, they started to make space for us in their lives and in the community.

12 years later, and having since moved back to Perth, we have remained firm friends with those in the hockey community; both in the regional South West town and communities throughout Australia. Through my husband’s state representation, we continue to travel for the sport. Our passion for and devotion to hockey remains a means through which we forge valuable friendships and a rewarding life.

We continue to get so much out of what we put in.  

I draw a comparison with my AILA membership. I have been a member since 2007, which coincided with our move down south. I joined out of need to feel part of a broader professional community whilst working remotely.

I’m so glad I made that decision, as I came to discover that distance doesn’t restrict the value or reward of a membership. Now, as a WA based Board director, I also serve on several National committees. The use of the Zoom platform has allowed me to broaden my network and become connected to many Landscape Architects across Australia, many of whom I have had the pleasure of getting to know over the past 6 months. 

Through being engaged in my role over the past 6 months I have learnt:

  • Gender Equity Working Group highlighted that the evening timeslots of some of AILA’s events preclude some working parents from attending them simply by the hour that they are being held. The solution seems so obvious, but by varying the timeslots, we may reach a greater variety of our members. Small adjustments can make a big difference and something so simple can be applied to my own workplace to encourage greater social attendance at our events by our part-time staff.
  • The AILA WA Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Committee have commenced bi-monthly meetings to provide stimulus to the process of achieving the identified RAP Actions. At our first meeting this year, we discussed the small yet tangible changes we can suggest to small businesses to encourage and implement AILA’s RAP. I learned of a small engineering firm that has clarified within their construction specification that any contractors tendering on their projects are to provide their company RAPS, openly recognising its importance. As a business, they have engaged their own Cultural Ambassador to advise them on appropriate engagement actions. They also embraced the idea of creating a map on their wall that identifies the Traditional Owners of the land on which their projects are based. I am encouraged by the notion that acknowledgement is the first step towards acceptance and building positive internal and external relationships.
  • Being an AILA member allows the opportunity to attend free events like the Dirk Sijmonds, presented by Brikworks on its national tour. It was inspiring to hear first-hand about the projects, design ethos and governance experienced by our colleagues in the Netherlands.
  • AILA is a non-for-profit organisation, so our membership fees contribute to the campaigns we run. Following a material loss last financial year, AILA is now heading towards a modest surplus; as a board member, I was able to be part of the decision to direct the income drawn from our membership fees towards the Highschool engagement program that our profession so desperately desires.

These insights are changing not only AILA as an organisation, but also my leadership style and awareness of the difference I can make to my sphere of influence. I can truly advocate that by being active with my membership, the value of it has increased exponentially, both as a business owner and, by default, to our staff. Above all, it is helping me to continually evolve as a Landscape Architect. 

I know this reads like a call-to-action, but I offer my experience to inspire others to share their stories in the hope we can reflect on our engagement with our membership and seek ways to get more out of it. Broadening our membership base will enable AILA to embark on more positive programs that are poised to improve our professional influence. For me it is a win-win.


July heralds NAIDOC week celebrations, an initiative that invites the Indigenous and wider Australian community to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This year’s theme is ‘Voice. Treaty. Truth’, acknowledging the desire of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have an enhanced role in decision-making in Australia’s democracy.

NAIDOC Week will be held from 7 to 14 July, and there are many exciting events in the pipeline. AILA encourage our members to get involved in the NAIDOC week activities -

Gender Equity Working Group

Since its inception in April, the Gender Equity Working Group has met three times with an early focus on establishing the 2019-2020 Gender Equity Action Plan. Based on the Parlour report on gender equity in our profession, a ‘Next Steps’ document has been developed to guide the working group’s focus. The broad categories for focus include:

  1. Part-time employment
  2. Tackling long hours culture
  3. Career progression
  4. Addressing the Gender Pay Gap
  5. Small business owners

As a group, we are in still the infant stages of prioritising our tasks for 2019-2020, but I am enthused by the energy the group has shown towards enabling positive change.

Bronwen Hamilton, of the GEWG expressed our intent well ‘Generally gender equity means working with the needs of men and women for flexible and changed work practices. This needs leadership. That leadership affects organisational and professional culture and can be enacted at all levels – there just needs to be a supportive environment to flag that flexibility is acceptable and encouraged.’

We remain buoyant over the evident health and openness of our profession in discussing gender equity issues and hope to be making announcements in the future about the projects we are embarking on.

The Board would like to thank Jocelyn Chiew on her nomination and election as the working group Chair.  

Award Winners

Sincere congratulations on the Chapter award winners from VIC and QLD awards. NSW and TAS winners will be known by the end of this week. As National Jury Chair, I look forward to reading about each of the winning projects with the National Award Jury in August and celebrating the successes with the AILA community at the AILA National Award evening at the Festival on the 10 October 2019.

AILA Festival 10-13 Oct 2019

The first release tickets are now available for our institute’s festival ‘The Square & The Park’ being hosted in Melbourne. With international keynote addresses now revealed, momentum is gathering for a great program of events and speakers. I look forward to meeting you there!

Peta-Maree Ashford,
AILA Vice President