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  • Nicola Smith

Boardroom chatter

As my first term as Director for the National PIA Board comes to an end, I feel a sense of overwhelming pride about my involvement in PIA’s progressive and innovative change over the last three years. Even more so over the last six months, running my own business and being a planner during the pandemic, I have found my role as a Director even more important and rewarding.


In 2017 I was elected by the Victorian Division to the National PIA Board where I sit with nine other Directors setting the strategic direction of PIA. Having been involved with this organization for more than 20 years, it was a privilege to move from Divisional Committee with a focus on local issues and day to day operations to a Director role providing broader leadership.

My interest in the Board was piqued early as a young planner, evolving into a desire to represent, promote and support planners across the country – ensuring planners had a strong voice. PIA has opened so many doors for me during my career, and I wanted to give back, to help in the ongoing growth and evolution of an Institute that I had been part of for so long.

PIA has evolved and changed over the years from my first involvement. A name change from the Royal Planning Institute of Australia (RAPI) to the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) signalled the start of this change and today, our organisation continues to adapt. During my time as Director, the Board has grappled with increasing climate change concern, the worst bushfire season Australia has experienced, the evolving gender diverse landscape, and more recently planning within COIVD, all of which the Board has tackled head on.

I am extremely proud of the work that I’ve been involved with as part of the Board:

- Re-doubling PIA’s advocacy efforts at the national level, evident in our renewed call for a National Settlement Strategy – and it now seems to be a case of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’.

- Championing PIA’s review of the current Planning in a Changing Climate policy. This work is being undertaken in consultation with our National Policy and Advocacy Committee and Young Planners, ensuring a consistent national approach building capacity, awareness, education and advocacy for reform.

- Engaging with Indigenous planners, architects and academics and supporting the creation of an Indigenous Working Group, reaching agreement on a way forward to recognise and promote the value of Indigenous planning

- Preparation and adoption of a Diversity and Inclusion Statement (interim) championing diversity in the profession

- Expansion of Planet across the country. The efforts of the Victorian office have not gone unnoticed in creating a high quality, in demand training course which has easily adapted during COVID to provide a national offering to our members

- Sharpening our focus on developing professional planners for the future supporting a new form of mentoring and events to suit our Emerging Professionals; those members no longer young planners and progressing through their career.

- Adoption of PIA’s first Three Year Business Plan and Budget.

In 2018, I was elected Chair of the Board Membership Committee, working with the ACT and NYPG Director to undertake a strategic review of the positioning of membership within PIA. This work is ongoing and has highlighted trends being experienced by membership organisations, and the relationship to generational cohorts. Of interest, the largest membership cohort within PIA is made up of Millennials+ (incorporating Millennials and Post-Millennials/Gen Z) with Gen X being the next singular largest membership group. These statistics have prompted our Committee to consider the various member services, operational matters, and communication channels offered and their relevance and value to current members. I hope to continue on this strategic positioning work over the coming three years.


And there are still some things that I’m sure our Victorian members would agree PIA could yet improve. Areas such as accreditation, response to climate change, affordable housing advocacy and digital disruption are all being addressed at a Board level – but we need others to feed in ideas. If you’re interested in the future of the profession and the changing world around us and would like to have your voice heard, please get in touch with me.

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