1. The Party Wall Neighbour. Email received 8 January.
After my tenants complained to me about rising damp in the corridor and some water damage in kitchen, I investigated to find that your builders neglected to seal the front section of roof prior to the second story, hence allowing a deluge of water to enter down the joining wall, and saturate the footings. This has lead to severe rising damp in my corridor leading to wall damage and a almost unlivable smell in the house. My tenants are very upset and threatening to leave if issue isn’t resolved soon.
2. Council infringement notices.
3. Broken boundary trap.
4. Storm water entry point full of hard concrete.
5. Receiving that anonymous handwritten letter stuffed under the front door. Dated 2 April. I cannot stress enough. This is not a joke.
Next time you harass an elderly women get your facts straight! The house near my parents’ on lease dumped all this rubbish and I thought it was you – because rubbish dumped near my parents! Once renovation starts on your house. Basically, my parents don’t dump their rubbish on anyone – if anyone dumps on their house. I WILL ACT.
What the actual F**k. It doesn’t even make sense?
6. More council infringement notices.
7. That time your sister calls you on her school holidays (she’s a teacher) to ask whether she can practice her tap dancing inside the house on the yellow tongue floor.
8. Windows installed without flashings.
9. Bamboo. Everywhere.
10. The Nosy Neighbour. The text message received 22 May.
Hi Justine, hope all is going smoothly.
Just had an elderly neighbour drop in anxious about your overlooking. Can I please kindly remind you about the amended permit conditions. All obscured glazing is to be manufactured and not stuck on ‘film’ and timber screen is 25% transparency. You’ll need to ensure builder orders the correct window frames and glazing!! I guess this is an immediate issue as they should be ordering windows very soon? Thank you!
11. The time you ask your dad to pay the structural engineer. 17 June.
Justine: Hi Dad, can you please pay the engineer? I need it for a certificate.
Dad: What engineer? Who is he? I spoke to the roofer he’s not able to quote till after Easter.
12. Rising damp.
14. The time you receive several urgent calls from your brother.
I don’t mean to alarm you, but an old man has driven into our front fence at Rathdowne. Police are here. He’s fine. The brick front fence probably isn’t.
15. The Party Wall Neighbour.
In addition, I believe trades people have been walking over my section of roof to install and nail all the side planks on the second story. I have now developed a roof leak in my kitchen. My tenants have to collect the leaking water using buckets otherwise they have water in the pantry spoiling all the contents.
16. That time you receive a text message from your sister.
A plumber just walked in on me tap dancing. You and Laurence both said no one was going to be there! I AM DYING! I ran out of there! I’m like to him sorry I tap dance and needed space. He was so awkward. I WAS IN A CROP TOP! Ugh!
17. The time the local black cat Liza runs through your house. Carpenter asks Superstitious much? I can only respond with Nah nothing scares me anymore.
18. My most frequent conversation. But don’t you work for a construction company?
19. The Party Wall Neighbour.
As your second storey addition has no provision for guttering on the north facing wall all the run off is now collecting in my drain canal and flooding it. I need action here immediately and am requesting a site visit ASAP to address these concerns. Your Dilapidation report will clearly show no rising damp prior to construction. Will call you in the morning to arrange a site inspection.
It just keeps giving.
My interests in construction, architecture and particularly heritage, really stemmed from some dear friends of mine when I was a boy growing up, who lived down the road, Warwick and Susie Forge. Warwick was the assistant administrator of the National Trust and lived in a historic house. I used to go around a do little bits of work on the house and in the garden, for pocket money. Warwick and Susie very much inspired me to take an interest in historic buildings.
I came out of school and typically didn’t know what I wanted to do post secondary school. I applied for both architecture and building and got into building at the University of Melbourne, but without really knowing what I was getting in for. Melbourne University at that time had some pretty inspirational people in the heritage and architectural history area, Miles Lewis and George Tibbits, both very focused on Melbourne’s heritage buildings. They were inspirational for me in my growing interest in older buildings, rather than new construction.
Initially my interests very much focused on the reuse of historic buildings, particularly the reuse of housing stock. This was at a time when Melbourne still had a Housing Commission and there were battles over demolition of areas of Carlton and Fitzroy. I was a part of a group of undergrads who got involved, particularly in Fitzroy, in giving advice to local residents, on how to look after their houses and repair and restore them.
In the evenings I would give advice to owners on housing repair. I would go to buildings and give advice on rising damp and crack repair. I became a director of the Fitzroy-Collingwood Rental Housing Association, which was one of the first housing associations formed. I was a property director, at a very young age, advising on how to maintain these buildings. It was a really interesting learning process.
I dabbled in working for a couple of architects for a moment. That didn’t last very long. During my post-grad work, I started to make a little bit of a name locally for being able to advise people on how to fix their buildings. I set up a practice basically soon after that, on building repair and maintenance. I went into a shared building in the city with a group of architects. They were running an architectural practice and I was running my building advisory practice. Basically that’s how the firm began, in the late 70s.
In 1981 I went into partnership with Richard Allom who was an architect in Brisbane. Richard and I formed a practice called Allom Lovell & Associates, and Richard had the practice in Brisbane, I in Melbourne and we became architectural heritage consultants at that time. We called ourselves heritage architects. The practice continues to this day, with a name change in that process.
Initially our work focused very much on pure restoration work and not so much on adaptive reuse with an undertaking of a lot of studies and research. The practice developed with an investigation arm and a doing arm. Gradually, over time, the research got bigger and bigger, as we did larger studies and more investigation. The doing arm became more architectural and looked at adaptive reuse and delivering projects.
In the nineties Kai Chen joined the business. A very highly regarded and well recognised contemporary architect, who had a very successful practice Robinson Chen. With that, we really moved significantly. We really saw that we were not just heritage architects, but we’re here as architects as well. I think as a practice now we’re seen as able to offer architectural work – new build and reuse, as well as still completing significant conservation work.
I think interestingly, Melbourne does conservation less well than we did in the eighties and nineties. Back then the construction industry responded significantly to the interest in applied conservation work. There were trades and general contractors that all realised they had to up-the-ante and deliver good applied conservation work. There was a greater awareness and skilling-up to deal with that. Sadly that has declined. The industry does not have that capacity anymore. When I started on the Melbourne Town Hall restoration of the stonework, which we did in the eighties, the contract required trades to have apprentices. There was a conscious training programme. The difficulty for a young person going into a heritage trade is, is there any longevity in the work? If the work isn’t there, the apprentices won’t be there.
The nature of contracting has changed. There’s been a shift in the place of consultants that has been significant. The role of architects has changed greatly in the last twenty years. I think on occasion this doesn’t deliver better outcomes. Too often the deliverables are compromised and the quality on what is delivered from a conservation perspective, is diminished. In the heritage trades schools aren’t training anymore. Apprenticeships aren’t offered.
The challenge for young women, is that issue of them being accepted in a room full of blokes. A young women from our office sitting in a room full of builders saying, ‘This is what I want you to do.’ I think watching how people react in that circumstance is interesting and it takes considerable confidence for a younger person, man or woman to command attention and obtain respect. I’m sure as a woman you develop your skills pretty quickly, as to how to manage that. I think there are varied styles that work for some people better than others. There are plenty of men who can’t walk into a room and command attention also.
There’s been a fundamental change in the building industry. When I started there wouldn’t be a person in management, who hadn’t come through the tools. You didn’t go to University. We were a rare breed; these kids going through and doing a construction course. So for us even, we were pretty odd and got treated in that way on building sites. They didn’t know quite what you were. There’s been a major shift now to professionalism.
I think the graduates who come into this office who are most successful, are the ones through their course who have been gone out and got experience. In my training practical experience was pivotal in understanding how buildings were built and you really began to get your head around what it was all about. The ones who have done the course, without being exposed, it’s that much harder. That practical applied experience is absolutely fundamental in you getting a leg up and moving forward. I would urge anyway to spend your breaks doing it.
Peter Lovell is a very well-respected figure who features heavily, along with his firm, in the built environment. It was an absolute pleasure for us to be able to spend some time with Peter in his office, getting a feel for how far the industry has come and how much has changed over the last couple of decades. Peter spoke with such candour and exceptional insight into how Melbourne has developed. Peter and his peers forged the new path of construction industry professionals who have mad the profession what it is today. Wishing Peter and Lovell Chen all the best for the end of 2018! J & D
When I entered professional life, coming from an academic environment, I was very worried that I wouldn’t get anywhere. I had this awful anxiety that I would just blend in. I saw all these different personalities and that was a huge learning for me. I had to learn quickly about what motivates people and that their motivators were often different to mine. In an academic environment, everyone’s driven, everyone’s trying to get their research work done. It’s a more homogeneous group than a typical workplace.
I’m a scientist by background. I went down an academic pathway out of school. I never knew what I wanted to do, so I actually kept things very broad. I completed degrees in Arts and Science. I majored in Biochemistry and Physiology, but then I also did English Literature and French. I finished with Honours, and completed a PhD in Cardiac Physiology. It was really technical. On my first day, my supervisor gave me a set of screwdrivers and said ‘Pull apart all the equipment, I want you to diagnose every component and then put it all back together!’ I was like, really? Looks expensive! I did things like give myself an electric shock.
At the end of my PhD I knew I didn’t want to continue on with science. Mainly because of the repetition. I really liked thinking about the problem to solve, the statistical testing, coming up with a conclusion, but I didn’t like the repetition of having to do the same test sixteen times.
I had a set of girlfriends who I went to high school with. One of them is a clinician. I said to her ‘I don’t want to be a scientist anymore, I don’t know what to do?’ and she said, ‘Do you know what you’d be good at doing Linda? You’d be good at running hospitals.’ There we are, two girls in our twenties, and I went – ‘Oh yeah. I could do that’. Seriously, I knew nothing! I look back now and I think it’s hilarious. What a stupid conversation we had. She grabbed a napkin from the waiter and started mapping out what I was going to do.
I went and got a job in a hospital as a project officer. I was given a business case to review, which was to build a new facility, relocate to that facility and sell the old one. I’m good at math and saw there was a four million dollar gap in the numbers. They didn’t add up. I went to my boss and said ‘I think the business case is fundamentally flawed.’ She took it to the CEO at the time who then requested I rewrite the business case with everyone on the team reporting to me immediately.
I’d been working in health at that point for a miniscule amount of time, everyone always assumed that I was much older than I was. I used that to my advantage. I did some further business cases and the CEO requested I become the company secretary. I’d never heard of a ‘company secretary’. I still remember thinking ‘I don’t know what that is, but if the CEO’s asked me to do it, it must be important, so I’m going to say yes’.
I started at Mercy Health as Director of Performance, Planning and Strategy. I only did that for a few months, before I started running Mercy Hospital for Women. I’m now also responsible for Werribee Mercy Hospital, Mental Health, Palliative Care and Mercy Health O’Connell Family Centre as well as hospital services in New South Wales. I thought I had everything, until three months ago they asked if I’d take over residential aged care, home and community care, and retirement living which is the same sized portfolio as what I was already running. I’m in my seventh week!
Werribee is seriously under-resourced for health, education and social infrastructure. It doesn’t matter what you look at, it has one of the fastest growing populations in the country. The self-sufficiency at Werribee Mercy Hospital is low, so I knew we needed more facilities. Particularly an Intensive Care Unit. We had the challenge of building four floors on top of a fully functioning hospital. Working with the construction team and consultants around how we could build this and minimise disruption to patients and staff was a big part of the project. It was quite the challenge.
Having children and having people say ‘Oh, should you have such a busy job? You’ve got young children at home.’ I have often said, ‘They’re actually pretty happy and well adjusted, thanks’. If I was home full time, they would not be happy and well adjusted. I’m a much better parent because I work. My husband is a tradie. That has worked really well for us. We are such different people – polar opposites. He starts at the crack of dawn, but is home at 4:30pm every day. We’ve got it working really well.
I’m part of a group of women CEOs and board members. We’ve been working on this program called ‘Not In My Workplace’, which is around protecting women from sexual harassment in their workplaces. We have here a workforce which is primarily female. We’ve got to protect the younger women who are particularly vulnerable. I find that a challenge. We have staff here 24/7. How do we make sure they are safe at work? Hospitals are high pressure environments and you’re dealing with people working in high pressure situations all the time. Patients are also in environments where they can feel uncomfortable and unfamiliar, so emotions tend to run high. Just making sure you keep a calm and consistent approach is helpful.
Tap dancing for me is like a moving meditation. I have to concentrate so hard that I can’t think of anything else. I find that my brain hurts more than my body at the end of a tap dancing class, because I’ve really had to concentrate. I also like gardening. I particularly like weeding! It’s another meditation for me. I can weed for hours!
Then I have three beautiful little people who keep me highly entertained and well grounded. We’re in the middle of that really intense family life. Our kids are twelve, ten and eight, so it’s weekend sport, activities on every weeknight – sport, dancing, piano. It’s a really nice part of your life actually where it’s all about family. You know it’ll be gone in a heartbeat.
My parents moved to Australia in 1967, with no family support. My mother didn’t have the benefit of an education because she was a girl and my dad’s dad had died very young, so my dad did his study later in life. My parents were all about education and opportunities for education. And then if you used that education, we’ll do whatever needs to be done to support you around that. I think that’s really lovely. The value of education.
We do the same with our children – How lucky are you to live in a country, where you get to go to school and learn? Do you know there are some children who don’t learn to read? Who don’t get to go to school? I look at our children compared to our generation. We had one family car, one parent working, kids were restricted to the amount of activities we could do. I look at our children and they are so privileged. You know, not everyone lives this way and you have a social obligation to give back.
L – R: Werribee Hospital Project Manager Tanya Moscicki, Health Minister Jill Hennessy, Assistant Project Manager Danielle Savio and of course Linda Mellors!
A while ago when Danielle walked into her first monthly client report at Werribee Hospital, she was so thrilled to see Linda as the one in charge. Strong, measured and a clear leader, Linda was extremely passionate that her team and the project team deliver the best outcome for Werribee Mercy Hospital. It’s not often that young women have the tenacity to tell their seniors that they are wrong. Something that slowly and surely is changing, but is still ingrained in our social norms. For Linda, it meant that she was recognised early on as someone who had strong convictions, could lead and had a keen understanding of business. And it’s a tenacity that still plays a part in her character today. Linda calls it as she sees it and this makes her a particularly purposeful, resolute and determined figure. We thank her for meeting with us and wish her the best in her latest endeavours! D & J x
I often feel like a tiny fish in a big pool that is the industry. A tiny fish swimming against a tide of other tiny fish, all battling to make an impact, a difference, become a leader, an innovator, or a barrier breaker. But I also can’t get over the privilege of my position. The privilege of traveling for work. Of feeling like I’ve made it into a role that I could never have dreamed of.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely not some jet-setting executive. I’m certainly lucky to have traveled as much as I have and there are others in my position who have traveled less. Or more. But to be able to travel at all – it’s almost a dream come true for me.
I’m second generation Australian. My grandparents on both sides immigrated to Australia in the 1950s from Northern Italy. Mostly uneducated, but hard-working. Prepared to leave the old country behind and start anew. My Mum was encouraged to go to University. My dad a tradesman – a carpenter. Both also ridiculously resilient and challenged only by themselves to be better and to do more for their kids than their parents could ever do for them.
When I was ten, we traveled overseas for the first time. Even as a ten year old, I knew what a big deal that was. How lucky we were to have this experience. Perhaps now, it seems so much more accessible for families to travel overseas, or perhaps I dance in different circles in the present. Certainly none of my friends were so lucky and I very much knew that I was exceedingly fortunate to travel. Of course, it was a little easier for my parents, with family still in Italy, but I still remember the weekly trips mum made to deposit money in the bank for us to save for that trip – years of saving every dollar. To give us a chance to see where we came from and much, much more.
They say you ‘get the travel bug.’ Perhaps we did. Or perhaps once you’ve done it, it seems a lot easier to do. Once I turned eighteen, like many young Australians, I was determined to travel more. There’s a fair bit of FOMO and YOLO in that. Spending hard earned money working shifts at Coles or for a pittance as an under-grad architect. Then out-laying it all for a few weeks of adventure. That sounds like regret, but it’s not. I wouldn’t have those pennies back for the world.
My Mum is a biochemist by trade. She took some 8 years out with my sister and I, before going back as a lab technician at a carpet manufacturer, where my Nonna worked on the factory floor. The place made car upholstery, which is how she eventually made it to work for Holden. When I was in year 10, my Mum went on her first business trip. She was off to Detroit, England, Germany for research and development. Now THAT was amazing. I remember it being such a big deal. I was, as a little kid, so scared and nervous for her. A solo trip around the world! Business Class? Inconceivable! The stress for us back at home. On that first trip back in 2011, she left Detroit the day before 9/11. My Dad ended up with shingles and passed a kidney stone, he was so stressed out.
I never thought it would happen for me. Did I aspire to that? I thought I could never do it. And yet here I am. On my third work trip by myself. This time to Frankfurt. All in the name of making sure everything is on track. That quality is good and that our requirements are understood. The kind of trip that seems excessive, yet can be worth it’s weight in gold if it prevents catastrophe.
Traveling without your partner in crime, whether that be a partner or a friend… is a crime in itself. You can’t exclaim out loud about the architecture. Dinner conversation is lacking and I usually eat too much when sitting by myself. Wine feels lonely. Pros – you can go to as many galleries and museums as you want, until you realise your feet can’t match your ambition. Did I mention the lonely wine? I find there’s always a lot of killing time when travelling by oneself.
‘We’re never done with killing time.
Can I kill it with you?’
Thanks, Lorde. No, you can’t. Because post 2pm in Europe, my home world goes silent. The time difference in Europe to Australia is woeful. China not so bad.
I recently listened to the BBC and Nordic NRK’s podcast Death in Ice Valley, which is about the story of the Isdal Woman. A woman who was travelling by herself in the ‘70s, when these things were rare, she wound up murdered outside of Bergen. Thoughts of the story came to mind as I boarded the plane. Being a woman of the twenty-first century and traveling on my lonesome. Perhaps still not common, but certainly not strange. Prevailing myths on the Isdal Woman say she was a spy, or a prostitute. Because apparently that’s what lone women are. Options.
People think it’s so glamorous. Which it certainly is and is not. Yes there are perks. The flyer miles. The dinners. The experiences. However, there’s also the exhaustion, the personal stress. Pushing your body to the limit. Two trips stand out in mind, where I flew 17 hrs to spend 48 hours on the ground, another 17 hours back, arriving 9:00am, to go straight to work on a Thursday, somehow make it through Friday… only to be in bed the whole weekend with acute exhaustion. The almost certainty that I’ll get sick from the toll.
In Europe I find it frustrating that everyone has a second language and it’s a working second language. They wear it like a second skin. Unlike my own mediocre knowledge of Italian nouns and verbs, which is overwhelmingly sub-par. I feel we have a real loss in Australia. English is spoken so well as a second language everywhere, it’s almost too easy to travel. The motivation or imperative to learn a language, just isn’t there.
I’m lucky because I don’t have a family. Well I have my husband and my fur babies, but they can be left at home to fend for themselves (husband included). I know it’s possible to travel when one has a family, but would I feel guilty doing so? I have a fear of being tied down. Even though I’m hardly living a gypsy life.
As much as it seems hard and stressful at the time and certainly about to board another flight right now, it doesn’t seem appealing at all. I wouldn’t change it for the world. I thank my circumstances and my privilege every day for the opportunities that are afforded to me. It makes me acutely aware of just how fortunate I am. And perhaps that’s why I have an urge to make a difference. I know with Gazella we are trying to do that every day.
My journey has been long. A door opens and I say, ‘I’ll do that.’ I always wanted to own my own practice. I spent maybe 6-7 years working for other people and often the dream felt more and more distant. Now I’ve had Schored Projects for four years. I’m the sole director. Prior to Schored, I had a practice with Graeme Gunn for 6 years.
I’m an architect first and foremost. I went back to University and completed my Masters in Landscape Architecture a few years ago. My practice works in both disciplines and we integrate both as much as possible. I started my architecture course at Deakin, completed a couple of subjects at the University of Melbourne, then graduated at RMIT. Melbourne was about catching up on subjects so I could graduate a little earlier. Deakin, I didn’t enjoy the location in Geelong and I wasn’t getting enough out of their design approach and at the time I had my eyes set on being a design architect which RMIT offered.
The only time I become nervous running a business is when the finances get a bit low, or I haven’t had a new job in a while, but I do absolutely love it. You’re a master of your own destiny. My time is my own. It allows great flexibility in life. I just bought a house with my partner, so I do a couple of days renovating with her now. I have a full-time staff member and a part time student in the office.
I’ve worked on trying to build up my Client base with housing associations and we now work regularly with about five of them. I try to touch base with them every few months. Word of mouth is important. The most recent job we won was because a CEO talking to another CEO of a housing association and recommending they speak with me.
My social values come from the way my Mum has bought me up and her influence. She was a nurse. Thinking about other people and not just yourself. The social work we do is to bring good design to people, regardless of their socioeconomic position. It’s really easy to design a house for someone who has money and can spend it. I want to get really good design out there for everyone whilst enjoying working to a budget.
The biggest social housing project we are working on at the moment is a design for Launch Housing on VicRoads land, designing transportable housing on Ballarat Road in Footscray to house people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. I had designed a transportable unit about five years ago for a competition, and we were shortlisted. I went around and showed housing associations what we had achieved. Launch Housing came back to me last year and said ‘Can we still do that?’
To get it off the ground has taken a little longer than we had hoped. The planning system hasn’t worked in our favour. There’s been a bit of the ‘NIMBGs’ (not in my back garden). There’s 9 sites, across 14 Titles. We secured most permits before Christmas and were trying to stay out of the media loop. But The Age got a hold of the story and we received about 80 objections on each of the last five applications. They tried to argue it was about amenity and neighbourhood character. Really it was because they don’t want perceived drug addicts, ex cons, whatever they can think of, living in their area. We have secured all the permits now, we just have to complete the delivery.
You’ve got to try and find your path, don’t listen to the bullshit and don’t get caught up in someone else’s path. That can be difficult, particularly in architecture. Not everyone is meant to be a design architect, winning awards and be published in magazines. I tried doing that for a few years, but it just wasn’t my path. I felt insincere, like keeping up with the Joneses. Don’t keep up with the Joneses, would be my advice. I found my path in social and affordable housing. It was hard to pull away from what I expected from myself. You get to a point where you can reject the idea.
I’ve always been good with work-life balance. There is often a whole expectation of being a martyr and doing overtime. My whole approach was to be out the door at 6:00pm. Time management is a skill.
My mum always told me to be honest. I’m honest to a fault at times. I’m the worst liar ever. In the industry, sometimes you have to fake it ‘til you make it. I’m hopeless at that. My honesty has gotten me to where I am today. And also probably Graeme. Who taught me ‘You don’t say yes to every job.’ Always get the client in first, because these projects take so long. You have to be able to get along with the people we work with.
Sophie plays a strong female voice in our world of social architecture today. Not only is she a driving force behind Melbourne’s urban environment, she is also promoting how we as a society have the capacity to change our community development. She certainly embodies a fearlessness role model to all women in the architecture industry. Not afraid to call it like it is, her success is a result of her honest, no bullsh*t attitude. Thank you for meeting with us Sophie, it was so refreshing to hear such a genuine perspective on life. All the best with your renovation!
How many times have you heard the words ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’, automatically associating it with women and gender politics. It’s a pretty common association in Australia, given all the media analysis of women’s participation in everything from politics to AFLW.
I want you to stop and think about what does diversity really mean to you? Why should it even matter? How do you think about it in your day to day?
Think about the last time you felt different. Uncomfortable with a situation. A time, where you felt left out or excluded. How did it make you feel? There have certainly been times when I have felt vulnerable, anxious and isolated due to feelings of exclusion. Unable to speak out, hindered by my surroundings.
On the other hand, I have felt the privilege of oblivion. I have followed the crowd on one or more occasions, feeling safe and grounded. No doubt, many of us have experienced both extremes.
Diversity comes in a myriad of forms, shapes and sizes. Ethnicity, gender, age and disability, scrape the surface. The obvious, outwardly overt reasons to exclude someone. Yet it’s the deeper dimensions of diversity traits, those that sit below the surface; often harder to see, that can often be overlooked without a second thought. Traits like values, life experiences, education, sexual orientation, political views and beliefs can all contribute to how you view your world.
The advantages to diversity in the workplace are plentiful. It has shown to facilitate businesses by improving ethical and good, decision-making within teams. Increase brand and reputation amongst customers and competitors. Provide a competitive advantage for talent attraction and retention. Maintain employee engagement. And has also shown to have improved links to safety and innovations gains.
So why is it so difficult to implement? Diversity is known to create conflict early on within teams. Often these uncomfortable situations are avoided at all costs because most people think they will remain this way permanently. It is in fact, quite the opposite. Although uncomfortable to begin with, diversity has been shown rewards of productivity over time. At the opposite spectrum, homogenous teams can remain static and inhibitive.
We all want to talk-the-talk with regards to diversity but we’re generally not walking it. Why? Because our evaluations are typically unconscious. We all have bias. Whether it be affinity bias; the feeling of relating to someone who is like minded is common and most natural. Alternatively confirmation bias; having views confirmed rather than challenged, can result in information and evidence been discounted. This being largely reflective of our social media foray.
Biases can be filtered through priming or stereotyping. What are we inadvertently expecting when we meet new people? Are there situations where we group think? Are we playing to perceived assumptions clouding our judgement of reality?
What can we do to change this? How do you ensure you don’t give in to bias? It’s as simple as becoming aware. It is important that our workplaces and the people in them, grow and learn to become places that are safe and where people can experience true inclusion. Question, Listen and Start the conversation. Ask yourself, what cultural-add is going to occur with this decision? Is the mix being challenged?
Ask for feedback. Don’t be afraid to get people’s thoughts on the matter. Play a point of devil’s advocate. Think about all the possible solutions. Put your view last in order to reduce the potential of priming and encourage openness.
How many people have felt safe to challenge you and your perspective lately? How are you cultivating change?
I graduated in the early 1980’s from my town and regional planning course at the University of Melbourne. I was there when the faculty building was cobbled together from various different donations of building materials from building companies – very different from the exceptional architectural composition that is now the Melbourne School of Design. My best subject in school was geography and I was always intrigued by patterns of human settlement. I was always interested in maps and as a young girl I spent hours poring over dog-eared Melways editions. When it came to working out what I was going to study for a career, it was always going to be in town planning.
After I completed my studies I worked for a short time in local government and then did what a lot of Australians still do and traveled overseas to London. I got a job as a planner for the City of Westminster working on the initial proposal to extend the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. That project went through an appeal process and involved what the British planning system calls an ‘inquiry’. Ultimately the proposal was not successful. Returning to London many times since, I often visit the National Gallery and reflect on what was finally constructed and is now known as the Sainsbury Wing – a restrained neoclassical building. It sits well alongside its host building looking over Trafalgar Square.
After returning to Melbourne in 1986 I joined Tract Consultants where I stayed for 10 years eventually becoming a partner in the practice. Tract grew out of the Merchant Builders Company, which pioneered free siting techniques and site response design that was reflected in its Vermont Park and Winter Park cluster housing projects.
At that time the marriage of the disciplines of landscape architecture and town planning was revolutionary and together they demonstrate how urban form and where we live, can be so much better. I learnt an enormous amount from my Tract colleagues and importantly Howard McCorkell and Rodney Wulff. It was an inspirational time and Tract gave me opportunities that I am thankful for to this day.
In 1996 I established my own firm and extended my area of practice in design-led planning solutions often in projects with urban design, landscape or heritage considerations. At the same time I was appointed by the then Minister for Planning Rob McClellan, to Victoria’s Heritage Council and subsequently as Chairman of the Council. At this time a new Heritage Act was given effect, which broadened the concept of heritage significance. No longer was it just about buildings but also gardens, cultural landscapes, objects and industrial processes.
My area of professional interest and capabilities was developing at the intersection of urban planning, statutory controls, place-making and project facilitation and I was keen to extend this area of practice into partnerships with urban designers.
About 8 years ago I joined a longtime former Tract colleague at my current firm Message Consultants, which comprises both town planners and urban designers. Our projects for the private sector and government clients often involve urban design and heritage issues as well as visual and landscape impact assessments and of course, advice on the development approval process. So much of what is characterised today as urban design is what I used to know as town planning. The challenge is that built form, landscape and heritage outcomes are primarily delivered through statutory controls so I think there is a clear role for the bridging skills that Message Consultants offers.
There are two aspects to starting any business. The first being the practical one, such as securing a small office space and the necessary IT resources. The second aspect to any successful practice is the development of networks with a client base and with your colleagues. I have learnt that cultivating and maintaining good relationships is critical and its value can’t be underestimated.
To be consultant and a trusted advisor is a nuanced role. As someone who is involved in the planning and design professions you are asked for advice on a wide range of projects. Discretion, integrity and a balanced clear-eyed view are critical. Learning or honing these skills takes time and I was very fortunate in having great mentors.
When I commenced my university course the gender split between men and women was about 50/50 with this ratio generally being maintained for about 5 years into my career. However, the number of women working as a consultant in the private sector reduced considerably after then. There were many times where I would attend meetings and I was the only woman there.
Thirty five years on and things have changed. There are certainly many more women in senior positions in both government and the private sector. However I think that professional prejudice against women and traditional resistance to women being taken seriously, has shifted to more subtle signals. The use of language and unconscious bias still remains. As Sheryl Sandberg wrote in her book “Lean In”, a lot has to do with women being able to ‘lean in’ without being seen as a pushy bitch.
We have come a long way though. My parents arrived from Britain in 1955. My mother was university educated and a qualified librarian. Notwithstanding this, she was ineligible for positions in public libraries because of her ‘married’ woman status. It turned her into a lifelong feminist (to my advantage). She eventually found work at the Baillieu Library where she was very happy. At the time however jobs were advertised with a female wage and a separate higher male wage for the same position with exactly the same responsibilities.
I’m so disappointed to hear younger women (and some older women including a senior female federal government minister) say they are not a feminist. I don’t think being a feminist is anything more than saying we’ve got the skills and we should be given the same opportunities in the same way as men are.
I think my advice to any young professional women revolves around style and substance:
Style – I can remember being advised by a university lecturer in preparing us for the world outside, that women should lower the pitch of their voice and dress soberly to be taken seriously. Well times have changed, but not that much.
Substance – Do your best and focus on where you want to be. Women tend to be very hard judges of themselves. Don’t be too harsh on yourself when something doesn’t go your way.
I think there’s a lot to be said for that collegiate relationship of women – seek out supportive female colleagues. I also think that there are some good mentors to be found in men, especially those that have daughters.
My mother always told me to do my best. My mother always worked outside the home. When I look back at her life now, it must have been very hard for a young English bride to be on the other side of the world and seeking employment in a new country where it mattered that you were married. I’m proud of all that she achieved.
We met Catherine at Melbourne wonder Punch Lane, one evening. Catherine is a quiet, considered, powerhouse of a woman, epitomising the advice offered in her interview; speaking with substance, whilst impeccably dressed in what is obviously her own signature style. She has been devoted to her profession for so many years. Her knowledge and involvement in the industry has undoubtedly shaped Melbourne today and will continue to be formative in the industry for years to come. We feel so privileged to meet people like Catherine who made a name for themselves in the industry in a time when the discussion around equality and diversity was but a small, pulled thread in the social fabric of the western world. Where sacrifices were greater and the road less traveled. We wish Catherine all the best for the rest of 2018!
As much as Justine and I try to pour our time and efforts into Gazella, we are usually absolutely time poor and often also lacking in motivation. True fact! That’s not to say we are motivated about making a difference – we are! But, sometimes after a 65 hour week full of battles and trials, it’s hard to get the lappie out and type out an hour interview, or even worse – spend some time internally reflecting. Not to mention, neither of us are writers, so writing takes us…well a long time…
Let’s face it. Love jobs, require love. And sometimes I’m too tired to even brush my hair. I’ve taken to ‘letting my mane out’ as the blokes on site like to say…secretly I’m too tired in the morning to hunt for the hair ties that my kitten steals during the night.
However, you know what we have learnt here at Gazella? There is nothing like meeting people to bring opportunity knocking. Meeting amazing women that help us in ways we could never have foreseen or imagined. Chance meetings that have become friendships. Momentary conversations that have lead to ongoing dialogues. Introductions that have snowballed into networks.
Back when we were fresh, newly-minted bloggers we were lucky enough to interview the phenomenal Danni Addison, CEO of the UDIA. An absolute moment for both of us. I mean…we left our meeting with her, questioning our entire lives. Both of us were in awe of her. Danni was our age. Already a CEO. Walking a path of influence we could only aspire to. However, Danni saw the worth of the story-telling at Gazella and she invited us to bring Gazella to a live audience in 2016.
Two weeks ago we completed our third live panel. Thanks once again to the UDIA and in particular their Women in Property network. The energy in the room was electric. Women engaging in real conversations around their experiences. We always aim to have a cross section of ages and experiences on our panel, and this year was no exception with Nicole Brown, Sarah Horsfield, Susan Oliver and Hayley Mitchell joining us to tell their stories and offer their words of advice.
I want to be real for a moment. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I feel like an imposter some times in these situations. Probably something we have all felt at times?
At work I’m (kinda) looking after my first project. My team are great, but they barely know about Gazella. On the night we undertake our third live panel, I quietly say, ‘Hey, sorry guys, I have to leave early tonight,’ then leave later then I meant to and battle traffic all the way to the city, where I walk into a room full of women that are probably more confident and accomplished than me. I’m too stressed to speak to anyone, because I left my notes in the car in the carpark I sprinted from across the city. I look at my boots in dismay, as I walk into the venue late – they are covered in mud. At least they are authentic?
Justine and I take the stage with these women who have made their mark in the built environment. I put on my best acting face. If there is one thing I CAN do, it’s get on stage and perform, an architecture degree and years of taking the stage in pointe shoes will bring you a level of ‘game face’. Having said that, I was nervous as hell, being extremely aware that again, I haven’t brushed my hair, my boots are REALLY dirty, I haven’t changed from site, where we were busy pouring a ground slab, so I’m actually just really dirty all over and I’m sure that I’m going to be fairly incoherent because I’m my usual tired mess.
It all goes well of course. Justine and I, from years of interviews, have found a way to settle into a pattern of question asking and covering for each other. There’s a nice natural flow between us and our panelists are in sync with that in the best way. Nicole’s youth and passion, Sarah’s brash confidence, Hayley’s calm consideration and Susan’s bold opinions crystallised on years of experience.
In the end, I have to remind myself, that despite how I felt. Despite the self doubt. It was Justine and I that made the night possible. Not without help and support of course (we love you UDIA), but even though what I have achieved personally often fails to feel like anything, together at Gazella, we have managed to create something to be proud of. A network and a tribe of people bought together because of our effort to INSPIRE, CELEBRATE and CREATE AWARENESS. There is an old adage that we are stronger together. And at GAZELLA that is certainly true. So we hope you continue to spread the word about Gazella and the stories of the women that we share.
So with that I leave you with some words from our panelists. Thanks to these women for being such inspirations to so many. And for making change in our industry.
Considering the cross section of insights and generations across the panel, it is very apparent that women are being heard. It’s so important to look at the positives and celebrate the progression from when Susan graduated, until now. The opportunities women are given today are inspirational in themselves and I believe it is so important, as discussed on the panel, to not wait to be recognized or asked, but to go out there and actively pursue your dreams! Don’t focus on an implications being a woman may hold – know that we are all equal, and go out into the world with the assumption that nothing and no one can hold you back. As women, we should be the first to stop questioning our equality and position based on gender. The rest of the world will follow.
It was a privilege to speak on a panel with such successful women in their own fields. The different perspectives presented provided a well-rounded understanding of the challenges and possibilities for women in the built environment. It was fantastic to have males in the audience and speaking to them afterwards, they shared how happy they were to attend and learn what it feels like to be the minority in the room! The event also gave me peace of mind to know that many others are facing challenges in their own workplaces, but there is a strong force of change moving through the industry.
So refreshing to hear from some truly remarkable women about how much can be achieved by following their passion and backing themselves. An inspiring event that reminded me how much we can learn from sharing our stories.
I cannot forgive anybody that says there is not a woman qualified for a position. The room was full of them.
And the talent, energy and personality of my fellow panelists and the Gazella team was a treat.
We’d also like to invite you all to our next event. Yogazella is back for it’s third installment on June 29 at Radiant Sol in Port Melbourne. Two hours of relaxation. Unwind, enjoy some amazing food and have a good chat with the tribe. We hope to see you there. If you are interested, tickets are only $36 and can be purchased through the link here.
We hope everyone has enjoyed Rosie’s adventures as much as we have. She is jetting off to Kenya this week, so we are sure to have some more adventures from her shortly. But for now, the tail end of her India trip escapades unfolds…
Playground build #5, Bhadohi, Uttar Pradesh, Northern India
I am afraid that this update is a little less enjoyable than those sent previously. After a bloody ripper weekend in Ipswich with a couple of legends listening to some phenomenal country tunes, I headed back to polar-opposite-India. I have entered a state which is known to be unsafe, hot and a terrible place for women.
My first transition into the state was after 32 hours on the road, in the plane and at airports, I was KNACKERED. On arrival the team had selfies with me before allowing some much needed sleep.
I helped Socheta final paint her current project before gearing up for another 6 hour journey.
After travelling 200km (which takes around 6 hours) we arrived at our next project in the evening. The area is very rural and traditional, looking around there are many many men in sight and no women. Our accommodation was to be at the office of our local partner surrounded by cropping fields, which unfortunately was not ready for us on arrival. Instead of clearing the room of boxes, putting light bulbs in the sockets, securing the building and setting up beds, the local representative had called all of the neighbours over to see and have selfies with the white girl. To say I was unimpressed is an understatement, anyone who knows me when I am tired knows I will stab anyone who stands between me and sleep. Throwing in the extreme levels of sexism, becoming a sideshow for entertainment and putting a camera in my face surrounded by strange men, you can imagine the mental breakdown swelling under the surface.
We ended up staying at a dodgy local hotel, where bucket showers are a standard, glow in the dark galaxy stickers are a ceiling feature and flushing toilets a luxury. In the morning we heard of some locals attempting to steal the drivers car outside the office. So it is safe to say we are not staying alone in a remote area, with no lights, no women, no knowledge of local language or customs. This is the first location in India where I have had real and severe concerns for my safety. It is terrifying to know this is thousands of women’s reality across India, where the sheer lack of respect and support within the communities prevents them from leaving the home alone.
Although the team and I (now down to 3 women, Cambodian-American, Indian and myself) were pretty ready to call it on the project due to safety concerns. We spoke at length about how maybe 3 women managing and building a project in the area is exactly what this community needs. How either consciously or unconsciously, local men, women and children might see that women can have roles other than in the home. Which may be a tiny step to appreciating how badass the women they are lucky to surround themselves with, are. We decided to stay and finish the project, because if there is any community who needs a little bit of inspiration, a little bit of joy and a few women telling the men what’s up and to jam it, this is it.
The project itself isn’t particularly tough, lots and lots of tyres, a maze, a snail trail and a swing set. The weather is the hard part. At 38-40 degrees each day, it wasn’t long until this cold weather dweller (thanks Melbourne) managed to suffer heat exhaustion. FYI – would not recommend. Shout out to AB for being my international nurse! The perseverance of the labourers and welder through the heat is truly mesmerising. Especially considering not many people I know would get out of bed in the morning for $5-10 a day, let alone work their butts off in 40 degree heat.
The culture of the area and school, unfortunately didn’t get any better from first impressions… The male gaze, while present and constant throughout my entire time in India, is next level here. It is almost a feeling of predator and prey. Truly terrifying. The school itself appears to have less and less women as the grades go up, apparently girls drop out in about 7th grade to learn domestic skills. The teenage boys appear to believe they run the show. Speaking of teachers, spending days on site, it became apparent that scare tactics are how the children are controlled. Each teacher carries a big stick and isn’t afraid to use it on the children, no words for this barbaric behaviour from the dark ages.
On a positive note, this area is famous for carpets, the storage and transportation of yarn is epic in colour and textures. We had the opportunity to go into a couple of carpet factories and the process was amazing.
As always the tiny humans are superb, and so stoked to be getting a playground and having strange looking humans to stare at. The local press have jumped onto this project as well, printing in 3 different newspapers, ‘Rojie from Australia’ is mentioned with an unnecessary amount of photos.
The TukTuks are next level, serving as school bus, bike transportation, rock & steel delivery, additional height where ladders fail, you never really knew what was going on, in the most hilarious way possible.
While the community as a whole was incredibly sketchy, the families of the labourers we had on site were amazingly welcoming. They cooked for us each day, invited us into their homes and we played with their children for hours on end. They were clearly shocked that we were interested in their lives, cultures and families (see image of the whole clan). Which we later came to realise, was a deep routed caste thing, as managers never interact with labourers other than giving orders.
In completing the project, I am both stoked we came to UP, provided some joy, challenged the local caste system and the typical image of women. But also incredibly stoked to be leaving, as I miss being able to walk on the street alone, or not be creepily watched as I drink a chai. The simple joys.
I hope you are all well, missing Australia like crazy between all these antics, off to Pune next,
Varanasi, Pune & Playground build #6
Don’t worry, you won’t read this one and think, ‘COME HOME NOW’, vibrant, beautiful and challenging India is back!
Known as the holy city, Varanasi is where the main holy river passes through, where priests study, yoga was invented, most Indian make pilgrimage to once in their lives and bathing, cremation and scattering into the river is sacred. It is also known as the highest level of scammers in India, which is an interesting contradiction to religion and holiness. We only spent a day and a half in Varanasi; strolling the river ghants (steps into the holy river) and old laneways, watching the religious ceremony and prayers at dusk, sunrise from an old rickety boat on the river and lots of poori baji (my new favourite Indian meal).
It was long enough to understand the deep connection to this place, the views, architecture, culture and cows everywhere are magical. Tourists here, while targeted, scammed and harassed by humans of all shapes and sizes, are also of a more mellow tone. Although this could be due to the legalisation of weed due to holy reasons in this city. Alcohol on the other hand, not so much, have been dry since leaving Australia.
Pune, what can I say, what a welcome surprise! After UP, in all its glory, I was beginning to loose faith in India. But Pune, is green, vibrant and welcoming. It has the feel of a young population (with exceptional taste buds), rich culture and a progressive attitude.
The project is in partnership with a couple of legendary humans who quit their jobs and started working for ‘Teach India’. Essentially volunteering to teach in schools with minimal funds to pay salaries, they crowd funded to support the school and build a playground. We are staying in one of their apartments on the lounge room floor. There is the standard India challenges of water supply (available for 3 hours each day), power cuts and heat (a/c not available). But it is nice to see how the average 20 something lives in India, an opportunity we haven’t yet been afforded.
The school grounds have two schools running, a morning school and afternoon school to service the sheer magnitude of children in the surrounding area. Unfortunately for us, the playground zone is on a rocky hill at the back where students have been utilising as a bathroom. Terrible ground conditions and permanent smell of sewage, not ideal. This project has particularly poor organisation and progress as the partners are busy with school exams and don’t really understand the whole ‘construction’ thing. The whole thing would be pretty stressful and frustrating if we couldn’t fill our bellies with superb feasts each night – Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Mexican all taste like Christmas when you have eaten a form of Indian curry for every meal for as long as you can remember. Side note, I am absolutely loving the Indian food across the nation, but it is incredibly nice to have a break and the option of cutlery!
Unfortunately, Pune is my last project in India and I must say it is sad that this adventure of playground building and village exploring is over. I would probably continue this fulfilling work if it wasn’t for India’s strict visa rules. As Departure Day rolled around, it was sad to leave a project unfinished, a team (Socheta) who had become family and a cause that I am becoming more passionate about each day. I am glad that I saw the good, the bad and the ugly of India. I wouldn’t change this experience for anything. While it was challenging at times, it is always important to check your own privilege.
Headed to the airport at 3am I barely had my eyes open and was not prepared for the strangeness to unfold. You know when you pick up a hire car, or jump in someone else’s car? Strolling along the bays, searching for the correct vehicle…. this is what Pune airport was like, but with planes. Yes they had the big airport loading arms (are these called the ‘gates’?), but instead of using these, every passenger cruised down the steps and strolled along the Tarmac in search of the correct company plane headed to the correct location. Phenomenal India, a smash in the park description of how simple yet complicated everything and anything can be here. Love your work.
I am currently in Malaysia, holidaying and exploring which is incredible.
Hope you are all well,
I have wanted to be an interior design since I was seven. There used to be an English show called Changing Rooms; it was some really bad TV, but I would watch it every week without fail. One week I was watching it and I turned to my mum and said ‘I want to be an Interior Designer!’
I was born in Hertfordshire, just outside of London. I studied Architecture at Brighton University. I’d been working in retail design and I wasn’t really loving it. One day on LinkedIn, I got an email from Hirsch Bedner Associates (a big international design firm) asking me if I wanted a job. It sounded amazing but it was in Singapore. I phoned my Mum and asked her whether she had ever been before. She said she had and it was lovely, so I thought, ‘Alright, I’m moving.’ There was no hesitation.
I ended up staying at Hirsch Bedner for six years. I worked my way up from a junior to running my own projects all over the place, from Bali to China, Myanmar and Vietnam. I moved to Bangkok when they decided to open another office there. We grew the office to seventy employees. I can’t believe how quickly it escalated.
I found working in Bangkok a real struggle. My partner loved Bangkok but not his job there and I found the culture a real challenge. He wanted to move home to Melbourne so I thought, what am I doing? I’ve been doing this for someone else. Why don’t I move to Melbourne and try and do it myself?
I started Design by Qu a little over a year ago now and we currently have 11 live projects across three countries with our first hotel opening in October 2017. I’ve met some amazing people over my career and most of my business today has come from those people and their referrals. The most incredible support for my business has come from my suppliers. I was told at the beginning of my career that you should really respect suppliers – a lot of people treat them like they are disposable. But if your main suppliers for everything from lighting to fabrics and finishes aren’t keen to help you, then who is? I am endlessly grateful to these incredible people!
In Asia throughout Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia, I found challenges with ageism as well as gender. It’s interesting, in Thailand, older women hold the most respect, followed by older people in general and then younger men. Working as a young woman was a nightmare. I’d walk into meetings and Clients wouldn’t even want to look at me. They are looking for the old, experienced person with the grey hair. It was however character building and taught me to have confidence in myself no matter what the situation. It has been the complete opposite in India however. In my experience, India has been the easiest market to work in. People seem to have less concern for age or gender and just want to work with people who can deliver what they want.
My number one piece of advice to other young women, or men, is just do it. If you said to me move to Singapore, my answer is ‘Yep, when do I leave?’ or start a business? ‘Sure when do I start?’. Just do it! There’s so much more regret for people who don’t even try, when what do you really have to lose? Especially when you’re young, what’s the worse-case scenario?
My mother always said our door is always open. This gave me the encouragement to go out and do new things with the security of my family and home always being there waiting for me, should anything not go to plan. I think it applies to many situations in design and in life. When you move around, meet new people, new clients, new mentors and new friends, and when you experience new cities, traditions and lifestyles. It’s so important to keep those doors open and use them to inspire your future ambitions.
Meeting at old-trusty (Fatto), we sipped vino with Hayley, whilst listening to her story and her life from Britain to Down Under. Hayley has a wonderful charm about how she talks about her work and her life. A certain joie de vivre for design, for travel and for her business, which is successfully making a name for itself in a particularly tough part of the industry. Hayley has a gorgeous sense of purpose and a great trust in her instincts. Something that has obviously held her in good stead.We wish Hayley and Design by QU all the best! Go check out their gorgeous Instagram too! J&D xx
Hayley will be joining us for UDIA Gazella Live V 3.0 on 24th May 6-8:30pm at Clayton Utz, Level 18, 333 Collins St. Book here.