Architect David Barr disappointed at losing spot on Cockburn design panel

Cockburn councillor Chamonix Terblanche. Picture – City of Cockburn.
Cockburn councillor Chamonix Terblanche. Picture – City of Cockburn.

THE architect who missed out on a position on Cockburn’s Design Review Panel (DRP) after the City lent towards better gender balance says he was disappointed with the outcome.

Fremantle-based architect David Barr was one of five candidates recommended for a position on the new panel, which will provide independent expert design advice about complex planning proposals to the City.

But he was overlooked after an alternative recommendation from councillor Chamonix Terblanche suggesting architect and landscape architect Lisa Shine be chosen over Mr Barr was backed by councillors at a meeting earlier this month.

“I’m disappointed to have been nominated for the DRP panel and at the last minute miss out,” Mr Barr said.

“However, I understand gender equality is something that needs to be addressed. I think the application process should have been structured in such a manner that made it clear from the outset that the City was aiming for gender balance, such that the nominations presented to Council were supported.”

Ms Shine was appointed to the panel for two years alongside architect and panel chair Barbara Gdowski, architect Dominic Snellgrove, architect and planner Chris Melsom, and architect Peter Hobbs.

Cr Terblanche said more diversity on the panel, which now includes two women and three men, would promote a better understanding of the marketplace in which the City operates.

“Women continue today to fight hard for recognition of their skills and the high potential of their decision making contribution in a wide variety of settings,” she said.

“Visionary leaders and institutions such as this council, when perceived to lead through a culture of inclusivity and innovation, will earn public respect.“The makeup of this DRP should more closely reflect the socio-demographic character of the community that we serve.

“A panel with at least two female members and accordingly the accommodation of differing forms of family and worldly experience will not only achieve more balanced dialogue and outcomes, it will serve to demonstrate that the City is pursuing a thoughtful, inclusive and less sector-biased process.”

Councillor Lee-Anne Smith said Ms Shine’s appointment would allow the City to keep up with the gender diversity recommendations set out by the Federal Government.But councillor Steve Portelli spoke against Cr Terblanche’s alternative, saying DRP positions should be filled based on merit.

“We need to put everything on merit,” he said.

“Affirmative action is wrong and adds to discrimination by counting the number of minorities instead of worrying about the people who might be qualified for the job.”

Speaking in favour of the alternative recommendation, councillor Kevin Allen said Ms Shine’s appointment made sense because her skill-set filled an obvious gap on the panel.

“One person that is missing is a landscape architect which I think is vital. That’s why I would support this motion,” he said.

With talk of gender diversity and “affirmative action”, Councillor Bart Houwen argued the matter needed much more discussion and questioned why it was brought up at such a late stage in the process.

“I think this is a serious matter and if we’re going to talk about affirmative action it should be in a setting where we’re discussing policy of the City,” he said.

“It needs to be considered in much more depth. The community needs to be consulted and I think it’s a bit ad-hoc and opportunistic just to bring it up in an item like this.”