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Introduction and background

Systemic risks are risks that extend across a sector and that, if they materialise, can cause widespread harm as well as raise questions about the efficacy of the regulatory regime governing the sector and the regulators that oversee it.

A. Purpose of Research Project

  1. Systemic risks are risks that extend across a sector and that, if they materialise, can cause widespread harm as well as raise questions about the efficacy of the regulatory regime governing the sector and the regulators that oversee it. Systemic risks may be latent because the harm that can be produced by them has not yet materialised or is not yet obvious. Moreover, systemic risks can be difficult to identify in advance in the absence of good quality information and intelligence that could enable trends to be detected.
  2. The ARBV and NSW ARB have jointly undertaken a research project to identify current and future systemic compliance issues and associated risks in relation to the regulation of the architecture profession in Australia (Research Project), with a particular emphasis on risks in Victoria and NSW.
  3. The specific objectives of the Research Project are to identify:
    • key current and future systemic compliance issues and associated risks within the sector
    • the factors that could affect the materialisation or exacerbation of current and future systemic risks or could help to avoid such risks
    • the manner in which systemic compliance issues and associated risks for the architecture profession are being addressed or could be addressed
    • insights regarding how to strike the appropriate regulatory balance between, on the one hand, encouraging innovation and creativity among the architecture profession and, on the other hand, mitigating systemic risks.
  4. This report contains the results of the Research Project, including an identification of key issues that have or could give rise to systemic risks in the Australian architecture sector. It discusses the implications of those issues for architects, for the ARBV and NSW ARB, and for the Australian architecture sector as a whole.
  5. Overview of regulatory regime for architects
  6. A brief overview of the regulatory regime governing architects in Australia is set out below in order to contextualise the analysis and findings in this report.
  7. Regulation of architects was first introduced in Australia around 100 years ago.[1] The primary rationale for the introduction of regulation at that time was to protect the public interest by ensuring that buildings were designed by people who were appropriately qualified and experienced. This rationale has endured until now and remains at the heart of the current regime for the regulation of architects across Australia.
  8. The architecture profession is regulated by Architect Registration Boards (Boards), which have been established in every Australian State and Territory. While there are differences between the regulatory frameworks applicable in each jurisdiction, some common obligations imposed on architects across jurisdictions include the following:[2]
    • obligation to be registered by the relevant Board
    • obligation to comply with applicable professional standards
    • obligation to hold required insurance
    • obligation to maintain skills and experience to the required level.
  9. In Victoria and NSW, the respective regulatory frameworks comprise:
  10. The regulatory frameworks in Victoria and NSW impose obligations on architects in relation to a range of matters, including:
    • the provision of architectural services
    • client-architect relationships, including client-architect agreements
    • fees for services
    • conflicts of interest
    • continuing professional development.
  11. These obligations are aimed at ensuring that architects act professionally and in accordance with applicable standards. In turn, compliance with these obligations helps to protect the interests of clients of architectural services, end-users of buildings and infrastructure that involve the provision of such services, and the public at large.
  12. The role of the ARBV and NSW ARB
  13. As regulators of the architecture profession in Victoria and NSW respectively, the ARBV and NSW ARB are responsible for ensuring compliance with the regulatory framework governing architects in each of those jurisdictions. Various powers exist to secure compliance by architects with their obligations under the regulatory framework, including:
    • to encourage and support compliance (such as through webinars and the publication of educational material about how to comply with the regulatory framework); and
    • to enforce compliance (through, for example, suspending and cancelling registration and disciplinary proceedings for unprofessional conduct).
  14. In practice, the ARBV and NSW ARB employ a combination of proactive and reactive regulatory activities to pre-empt, prevent, detect and respond to non-compliance by architects with the regulatory framework.[3] In addition, while the remit of the ARBV and NSW ARB does not extend to remedying harm that may be suffered by a client due to an architect’s unprofessional conduct, each regulator accepts complaints about architects, which could lead to regulatory action.
  15. This Research Project has helped to identify current and future systemic compliance issues and associated risks for the architecture profession in Australia. The findings will be used to inform, prioritise and strategically target regulatory activities undertaken by the ARBV and NSW ARB in Victoria and NSW. In turn, this will help to ensure that the objectives and outcomes underlying the regulatory frameworks applicable to architects in these jurisdictions can be achieved.
  16. This report includes implications and recommendations for the ARBV and NSW ARB, as well as for other stakeholders including architects themselves. Collectively, the recommendations are intended to foster a collaborative and coherent approach to the management of systemic risks affecting the Australian architecture profession.

[1] See Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) website accessible at: https://researchdata.edu.au/architects-registration-board-victoriaExternal Link .

[2] AACA, Regulation of the Architectural Profession: A Summary of Australian State and Territory Legislation (2021), at p. 4–5.

[3] See the ARBV’s Statement of Regulatory Approach (June 2021) accessible at: https://www.vic.gov.au/arbv-publicationsExternal Link and the NSW ARB’s Strategic Plan 2020 – 2023 accessible at: https://www.architects.nsw.gov.au/publicationsExternal Link .

Reviewed 20 December 2022

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