Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer/Registrar report

Report by Dr Giorgio Marfella, the Chairperson of the ARBV and Dr Glenice Fox, CEO/Registrar of the ARBV.

We are pleased to present the Annual Report of the Architects Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV) for the 2021-22 financial year.

At the ARBV, the last financial year was a period of consolidation and establishing new strategic direction. The Board and ARBV staff embarked on a new biennial cycle of activities in response to the Statement of Expectations issued by the former Minister for Planning, the Hon Richard Wynne MP, in July 2021.

The ARBV has continued to develop and enhance processes that allow staff and the organisation to deliver its services with timeliness, apply risk-based strategies, commit to decisions with integrity, independence and transparency, and continue to provide services in the public interest. The Board has been working closely with management to strengthen the ARBV's effectiveness as the regulator of the largest cohort of registered architects in Australia. Underpinning every aspect of the ARBV’s work is a strong commitment to engage, cooperate and communicate with other regulators, its duty holders, industry stakeholders and the public.

This annual report outlines progress made, and steps taken to meet those overarching strategic goals. Here, we take the opportunity to underline only the most significant initiatives that have commenced or were completed in the last twelve months.

The Board worked closely with management in developing the ARBV Service Charter, which sets out the standard of service that Victorians can expect from the ARBV. The Charter explains the long-standing role, values, and functions of the ARBV and provides direction for anyone willing to engage directly with our organisation, including making a complaint or giving feedback on the services we provide.

The Automatic Mutual Recognition (AMR) scheme for architects commenced in Victoria on 1 January 2022, allowing individuals to use their home state occupational registration to work in participating Australian states and territories, without the need to apply for registration or pay fees in the second state. The ARBV worked closely with other regulators and both State and Commonwealth Government agencies to develop systems and processes for sharing information, including a new public-facing AMR register on our website.

In March 2022, the Board and senior management gathered for the annual ARBV Planning Day. The day's activities directed the ARBV to commence work on a new four-year Strategic Plan. A draft of the new strategy was completed in June 2022 and is planned for release in late 2022. The draft strategy sets a provisional framework of direction under a new vision and mission, and a detailed plan of objectives that will guide the ARBV until 2026.

Work on the new strategy gave staff and the Board a chance to reflect on the culture of a public entity with one hundred years of history. The long-standing culture of the ARBV rests on understanding the architectural profession and its current standards of professional conduct, transparency and procedural fairness, and governance practice tailored to the functions set out in the legislative framework of the Victorian Architects Act 1991 (the Act) and the Architects Regulations 2015.

The Board continued to meet its calendar appointments remotely due to the ongoing global pandemic, and for many Board and staff members, the Planning Day was the first opportunity to meet in person. ARBV Board and workshop meetings take place monthly and are complemented by additional appointments for committee meetings, training, and theme-based working group sessions. Since July 2021, the Board has welcomed five new members who have quickly adjusted to the organisation's culture and pace and made valuable contributions.

The new arrivals allowed the Board to engage in the launch of a new program of induction for Board members, which spanned over several months with collective seminar-based training and one-on-one discussions with the Chairperson. The induction program, combined with the individual expertise, skill and knowledge brought by each individual Board member, has strengthened an already existing solid leadership and culture of governance at the ARBV.

A point of strength of the current Board derives significantly from the availability of a balanced matrix of skills and professional expertise, which includes consumer representatives, professionals of the building industry and several registered architects with complementary skills coming from government, academia, large and small practice.

The Board has continued monitoring and providing accreditation for Schools of Architecture in Victorian universities. Working in collaboration with the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia and aligning with the decisions of other Australian Registration Boards, the ARBV has also taken important and nationally consistent decisions that will improve the prerequisite activities of professional practice required to sit the Architectural Practice Exam.

Assessing and responding to complaints for alleged unprofessional conduct and its associated decision-making for referrals for inquiry to the Architects Tribunal is essential to the Board's activities. As is protecting Victoria’s consumers from unregistered persons representing themselves as architects in breach of the Act’s prohibited conduct provisions. Such breaches may be prosecuted in the Magistrates Court of Victoria by the ARBV and in 2021-22 ARBV has been working to strengthen its oversight of and enforcement in relation to prohibited conduct.

Since the revision of the ARBV's Regulatory Strategy in 2021, the ARBV has worked on improvements to its investigation processes and reporting to the Board. These revised processes allow Board members to follow a more co-ordinated approach for managing conflicts of interest, gain a thorough understanding of the circumstances of each case from a legal perspective and gather insight on trends and patterns of non-compliance that may warrant proactive regulatory activities.

The Board is committed to proactive regulatory activities and educational initiatives that complement the regulatory functions prescribed by legislation. In the last year, the ARBV continued to support universities with a small but symbolically important monetary award for students of architecture who excel in the study of professional practice and committed, in collaboration with the New South Wales Architects Registration Board, to a pilot research initiative on systemic risks for the architectural profession in Australia that will be published in late 2022.

Despite global disruptions and uncertain economic prospects, Victoria remains an attractive destination for studying architecture and registering as an architect. The ARBV has continued to operate as a financially independent public entity without weighing on the State Government budget, supported by the examination fees paid by APE candidates and registration fees paid by architects and approved companies and partnerships that provide Architectural services in Victoria.

In the 2021-22 financial year, the growth of registrations and strict expenditure control allowed the ARBV to maintain a small operating and cash surplus whilst also meeting capital expenses for enhancing the new digital Customer Relationship Management system, the procurement of a new office fit out, and relocation to the new premises.

In order to continue implementing our busy cycle of activities and regulatory improvements, while maintaining an independent and sound financial position, the Board has taken steps to discuss and review the viability of the current fee structure over the long term.

On several occasions, the Board and ARBV have worked closely with the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), progressing initiatives for sectoral reforms and discussing plans for strengthening the ARBV and its regulatory remit for the future, and we have continued to engage with the same purpose with leaders of membership organisation of the architectural profession, the Association of Consulting Architects, the Australian Institute of Architects and the ArchiTeam Cooperative.

The ARBV continues to provide an essential role in national leadership as a member of the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia. In this role, the ARBV fulfils, through the Chairperson and CEO/Registrar, representation from Victoria in the coordination and governance of a national framework that sets criteria for course accreditation, national examination, international agreements for overseas qualifications and setting competency standards that inform the registration and conduct of the profession of architecture in Australia.

In conclusion, we wish to express our gratitude to the staff of the ARBV who continued to work with daily commitment in supporting the implementation of many changes within the organisation.  We wish to also thank the members of the Board, Bruce Allen, Sophie Cleland, Mark Curry, Richard Drew, Stefan Preuss, Danielle Roche and Deputy Chairperson Richard Salter, for their ongoing support and strategic advice and their steadfast commitment to promoting higher standards of professional conduct among architects in the public interest.

Lastly, thank you to our duty holders, the Victorian architects, for their ongoing support to the ARBV through registration and the valuable services they continue to provide to their clients and the Victorian community.

Dr Giorgio Marfella and Dr Glenice Fox
Dr Giorgio Marfella (Chairperson) and Dr Glenice Fox (CEO/Registrar)