Recently, I advised the RA Board that I would not seek a further term as President at our forthcoming AGM on 25 November. Although this has not been an easy decision, I feel that now is an appropriate time after what has been an unprecedented and challenging three years for the organisation.
When I first took on the role of President in late 2019, none of us could possibly have envisaged the challenges that COVID-19 would pose for RA and for our industry just a few short months later.
RA’s great strength has always been its ability to connect members with each other via networking events. Being confronted by circumstances that prevented us doing that for a protracted period was a tremendous challenge for the organisation and required us to quickly adapt and widen our offering to ensure continued value for our members throughout the pandemic.
The complexity of the task confronting the RA team at that time – rapidly evolving a long-standing event delivery model to something very different within a matter of days – cannot be overstated.
I am incredibly proud to have worked with the RA Board and our team throughout that period to pivot and evolve the organisation to include online industry events and policy webinars as well as online events for RA Fellowship and Emerging Leaders program participants. These events allowed our members to remain connected to colleagues and engaged with the pressing issues facing our industry over what was a very turbulent time.
I would also like to particularly acknowledge the support of the then-Deputy Prime Minister, state Ministers and departmental leaders from across all jurisdictions for their cooperation and participation at the time.
There are not many industry associations who can lay claim to enjoying a membership increase and remaining financially sustainable during the period of the pandemic. It is also notable that we had a little over 12,000 registered participants for RA events during 2020, compared with just over 10,000 in the year prior to the pandemic. All this was achieved without using any of the federal grants given out to many organisations over COVID. The fact that RA has continued to grow our influence and leadership is a testament to the relevance of our approach and the incredible loyalty of our members.
I am especially pleased that the policy webinars established during COVID proved so popular that they have remained as a feature of our offering, even as travel and in-person events have largely returned to normal during 2022.
Of course, like every other RA member company and organisation around the world, the COVID experience brought about changes to priorities and perspectives, which for most organisations has quite naturally led to some personnel change and alterations to business models. RA has been no exception to this, and I am confident that the experience has been one that means our organisation today is more agile, focussed, united and resilient than was the case pre-COVID.
I am equally proud of other changes which have occurred at RA during my presidency which, although perhaps not obvious on a day-to-day basis, mean that RA is now tremendously well-placed to lead our industry as it continues to evolve.
As well as a modernisation of our brand and our communications approach, I am pleased to have led the Board throughout a period that has witnessed:
- strong growth in our signature Fellowship and Emerging Leaders programs;
- a broader focus in our events programs that is drawing in new speakers and subjects;
- an evolution of RA’s policy engagement to embrace contemporary issues such as placemaking, digital engineering and asset management and a focus on freight; and
- elevating RA’s profile through key publications and activities such as our Procurement Reform Report, the Journey to Net-Zero and the success of our inaugural industry visit to New Zealand.
There will of course be an opportunity to reflect further on how far RA has come and the journey ahead at the AGM and in our forthcoming 2022 RA Annual Report, in which I look forward to sharing further thoughts.
For the moment, however, I take this opportunity to thank you for your support over the past three years of my presidency.
Although it will be in a different capacity moving forward, I nonetheless look forward to remaining actively engaged in RA’s journey and connected with our members, who are ultimately our greatest strength and will undoubtedly drive the organisation on to even greater achievements in the years ahead.