Local Councils Update

Port Stephens Council

UDIA met with Tim Crosdale, Kate Drinan, Janelle Gardner and William Oxley on 28 August 2020.

  • Strategic Planning and Economic Development: Council is scoping planning proposals to align LEP with LSPS, and implement infill housing study, aiming to submit both for gateway by end of year. An update to the commercial and industrial land study will commence soon and council will engage with industry early in that process. The Nelson Bay Strategy is likely to be reported to council in Nov/Dec. PSC received a state grant of $600,000 for public domain projects in Raymond Terrace and Nelson Bay town centres
  • Williamtown SAP: The Williamtown Special Activation Precinct has been declared and state government is currently undertaking the master planning process, which is expected to take 12-18 months; specialist studies will begin soon (structure plan, engineering, drainage, environment, heritage). An investigation area has been declared and NSW government is engaging with industry and land holders to determine the final sites to include in the SAP.
  • Strategic Asset Management Plan: the newly adopted SAMP seeks to directly align infrastructure contributions collected with council’s forward works plan.
  • DA Assessments: applications have dramatically recovered post-covid lockdown, with first half 2020 finishing similar to 2019 in terms of volume, but higher in terms of cost of works.




Cessnock City Council

UDIA met with Martin Johnson, Iain Rush, Janine Maher and Karen Forsyth on 15 September 2020.


  • Staff Update: Martin Johnson is Acting Director Planning and Environment (Gareth Curtis is now GM at Dungog). Recruiting staff in strategic planning, compliance and engineering.
  • Strategic Planning: Local Housing Strategy likely to be exhibited in October/November. An Urban Growth Management Strategy is being developed which council hopes to exhibit along the LHS. Other work include Local Character Study, Greener Places Urban Forest policy and Environmental Lands Study.
  • Seniors Living: Council is interested to consult with industry on barriers to delivering seniors housing in the LGA, and ways to address incentives through a DCP review. Contact Rob Corken, Senior Strategic Planner.
  • DA Assessment: a slight increase in volume over last year; notably 100% of last year’s DAs were determined by grant of consent.
  • Local Infrastructure Contributions and Delivery: the updated city wide local infrastructure contributions plan has been adopted. Council is focused on better linking finance and delivery.




City of Newcastle

UDIA met with Michelle Bisson, Patricia McCarthy and Priscilla Emmett on 24 September.

UDIA made a submission to the Newcastle draft Local Housing Strategy.

  • Staff Update: Following the adoption last year of a new service unit plan, roughly 25 additional positions have now been almost fully recruited, the majority in the development assessment area. Engineering has a new resource starting in mid-October.
  • Strategic Planning: UDIA made a submission to the draft LHS, making recommendations around housing diversity and affordable housing. Council aims to adopt final LHS in November. Council will develop an Affordable Housing Policy and contributions scheme early 2021, and UDIA will continue engagement. Council trying to resolve potential community benefit scheme in Wickham.
  • Development Assessment: Focusing on finalising older applications and increasing volume and speed of determining new applications. They have seen a recent rise in commercial DAs. Working with DPIE to address integration issues of Planning Portal.
  • Agency Referrals: high volume of Ausgrid referrals, followed by RFS and TfNSW. Will seek engagement with Ausgrid to better understand referral requirements.
  • Local Infrastructure Contributions and Delivery: Council have engaged a consultant to undertake a contributions review. Community/industry engagement will begin in 2021, with the review to be completed by June 2021.
  • 7.12 Amendments: Proposed changes incorporate UDIA recommendations to move timing of payment (for building work over $10m) to prior to OC (vs CC); and inclusion of items supporting Wickham Master Plan.




Central Coast Council

UDIA met with Ricardo Martello, Shari Driver and Andrew Roach on 4 September, and with Shari Driver and Andrew Roach on 29 September.

  • Staff Update: Ricardo Martello is Executive Manager Innovation and Futures. His unit now incorporates strategic planning, economic development, performance and improvement. Shari Driver is the newly-appointed Strategic Planning Manager. She reports to Ricardo, and her responsibilities include strategic planning, ecology and contributions planning. Andrew Roach is Unit Manager Development Assessment.
  • Strategic Planning: UDIA emphasised importance of finalising the consolidated LEP, implementing the North and South Growth Corridors and resolving issues around the WEZ.
  • Development Assessment: Council has signed up for DPIE’s Council Accelerated Assessment Program and is hopeful it will assist in clearing project backlog. Discussion about the impact of ecology on development sites, including loss in yield and ongoing uncertainty.
  • Local Infrastructure Contributions and Delivery: The Warnervale contributions plan is expected to be on exhibition in October. Council is conducting a full review of its contributions plans. DPIE audit revealed issues to work on; council has agreed with DPIE on how to speed up delivery of its balance, and DPIE is allowing more flexibility in how it is spent due to covid. A further meeting will be scheduled to discuss better alignment of financing and delivery of infrastructure.

Ausgrid Letter to Major Customers

Dear Major Customer,

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a challenging year and like many organisations, Ausgrid has also had to make tough decisions to ensure the ongoing health of our business.  The welfare of our people, customers and business partners is, as always, very important.  Due to the impacts of COVID-19, Ausgrid is taking steps to manage our workforce with as little impact as possible on our people, customers, Accredited Service Providers (ASPs) and contractors.

With this in mind, Ausgrid will be implementing a Christmas shutdown period for all but essential work.  The shutdown will be for 12 business days from 21 December 2020 to 10 January 2021 inclusive.

What services will be impacted?

During this Christmas shutdown period Ausgrid will have a limited capacity for essential work only. This will impact our service levels for the following Ancillary Network Services:

  • Telephone, CRM and email enquiries.
  • Processing of connection or relocation applications.
  • Undertaking technical assessment of connection or relocation applications, including Preliminary Enquiries and Notification of Arrangements.
  • Issuing and/or acceptance of offers.
  • Preparation of design information.
  • Undertaking design checking or certification of designs.


Note: Extensions of time and responses to enquiries may not occur until after 10 January 2021.

Outages, inspections and site meetings for customer-initiated works will not proceed during this period with a limited ability to respond to customer requests for these types of enquiries.  All customers and their ASPs will need to consider the impacts of this shutdown period when planning your works.

Additional to this shutdown period, it is recognised that Ausgrid experiences an increased volume of contestable works being undertaken on the network in the lead-up to the new year.  For planned works into January please take into account the addition of the Christmas shutdown.

Notwithstanding the above, it is imperative that works are carefully and accurately planned to ensure any unnecessary risk of cancellation to a planned outage is minimised.

We appreciate your understanding and cooperation through these challenging times and hope that this early notice provides the best opportunity for you to plan your contestable works now and into the new year.

If you have any questions or need further information please contact us at majorconnections@ausgrid.com.au




Major Customers

Customer & Strategy | Ausgrid

Level 12, 24-28 Campbell Street, Sydney NSW 2000




Preview Release of the New Lake Macquarie UDP

Lake Macquarie City Council has updated its local Urban Development Program (UDP) for residential land and is now providing the data in two formats: a web based interactive map, and a spreadsheet: Lake Mac UDP – 29 Sept 2020

The Lake Macquarie UDP is a database which tracks the location and quantum of new dwellings in all stages of the development pipeline in the LGA. It includes both infill and greenfield development that will create one or more new dwellings (including secondary dwellings).

The map allows users to navigate around the City and zoom into specific areas, click on a polygon and bring up site specific information such as location, estimated yield and stage in development. The colour coded legend also provides a high-level view of the development pipeline.

Lake Mac aims to update its UDP quarterly and is working on adding employment land to future releases.

Please note that some future (RU6 zoned) urban release areas are included within the UDP, however zero dwelling yield is generally included. Where some analysis has been undertaken (typically by the landowner), a conservative yield may be included. This currently occurs on two sites only. For infill areas, only sites that have been through the pre-lodgement process are included. For further analysis of infill development supply refer to the LMCC Housing Supply Potential paper prepared in 2018.

For more information, contact Wesley Hain, Manager Integrated Planning, Lake Macquarie City Council.


Shoalhaven City Council Restructure

Shoalhaven City Council has implemented a new structure aimed at promoting customer service across the organisation and supporting development.

A new directorate – City Futures – has been formed which includes strategic planning, URAs, affordable housing, economic development, and transformational city projects like Nowra riverfront. Robert Domm is the appointed Director of City Futures for 12 months.

Shoalhaven Water is no longer a directorate but maintains its functions and continues to report to the CEO.

Now that this restructure is in place, Ian Reynolds is undertaking a review of lower level staffing with an aim to further streamline processes.

View Stephen Dunshea’s presentation here.

Endeavour Energy Servicing Update

Endeavour Energy is seeking updated project information from developers to help them in their understanding of upcoming needs. Contact Andrew Hardy to provide feedback.

Endeavour have just completed an update of their 10 year growth load forecast which is updated each summer and winter.


  • Nowra Bomaderry: a network strategy was recently completed for this area. They are looking to invest in a new transmission station on northern side of river, and a zoned substation in Cambewarra area. The property unit is investigating suitable parcels of land.


  • West Lake Illawarra: a battery energy storage system was installed in April in a trial project aimed at delaying more significant capital expenditure. The battery is charged in off peak times and used to assist peak loading, this should help the local zoned substation last longer. A new West Dapto zoned substation is planned to be delivered in 2025; ongoing modelling will confirm final timing. Endeavour are currently negotiating for land and hope secure a site by early 2021. They are starting to see some capacity strain at West Dapto and are investigating possible re-rating of some lines to help maintain capacity for longer.


  • Calderwood: planning to position a mobile zone substation (semi trailer transformer and switch gear) in second half 2021 to offload Albion Park substation.

Sydney Water Servicing Update

Sydney Water is seeking further growth information / developer feedback as to whether to proceed in areas where growth seems to be slowing. Please provide any project updates to Christian McNally to help them in their understanding of needs. Sydney Water may consider staged interim infrastructure solutions instead of major permanent capital investment as appropriate.


Building Commissioner asks industry to be inspired by great work

The Building Commissioner David Chandler joined Ray Hadley on 2GB this morning to talk about the start of the OC Audits this week (you can listen in here from 50:10). In the interview he talked about what he’s seen so far, and how the process that’s now underway, will help lift the standard of building development, and restore consumer confidence in purchasing apartments.  To coincide with the interview, here’s an update on how this important first step, is progressing.

The first of 200 Occupational Certificate (OC) audits began on Monday, at sites ranging across metropolitan and regional areas. Over 420 projects have notified us in accordance with the requirements of the Residential  Apartment Buildings (Enforcement and Compliance Powers) Act which commenced on the 1st September 2020. Some developers have not notified as required and they should be aware of the consequences of not doing so. Fines of up to $100,000 could apply and there may also be a prohibition order to stop an occupation certificate issuing.

Extensive briefings have occurred with all the industry’s key players including the Property Council of Australia, the Urban Development Institute of Australia and the Urban Taskforce Australia. The briefing material provided to these important industry leaders has been widely circulated. A learning module to inform industry is now active on the TAFE NSW site. Over 615 people have signed up to do this module which will be free for the next 40 days.

Already the OC Audit program is revealing examples of both excellent and poor practice. Often the good practices are under reported. It is these projects that set the benchmarks that those who have yet to make a commitment to building trustworthy buildings must seek to aspire. While it is important to call out poor practice players, it is equally as important for consumers to understand that the majority of developers and builders are committed to delivering high quality buildings.

Companies ranging from the big end of town right through to small players are setting the standard with projects like Ora Doll’s Point by Helm, Meriton Suites Waterloo, Billbergia’s Rhodes Central, St Leonard’s Square by Mirvac. These companies have stable teams of managers, designers and contractors. For the consumer as well as the builders and surveyors, these are vital considerations in selecting a property to purchase.

“We’re not just here to spot the problems,” says David Chandler. “We’re here to inspire excellence. That’s how we’ll rebuild consumer confidence and get our industry firing on all cylinders. I want people to know what we expect and what to aim for. We all want to be proud of what is being achieved and I know our industry can be world-class.

“I’m excited to see what’s yet to come” he says. “Stay tuned!”.

UDIA leads the way for Western Sydney – CEO’s speech 17.09.2020

The speech below was presented by Mr Steve Mann on UDIA TV on 17 September 2020


Today we’re here to talk about Western Sydney and this is a topic which greatly impacts us all. The Western Parkland City is so much greater than a housing opportunity in the West, it is about redefining all of Sydney, into a stronger position with other competing global cities like Singapore, San Francisco or London.

The second airport is the catalyst for a once in a lifetime city-shaping opportunity. It is predicted that the Western Parkland City with the Aerotropolis core will be Australia’s third largest economy by 2036, with over 1.5 million people anticipated to live in the area, alongside the creation of 200,000 jobs at the Aerotropolis across aerospace and defence, manufacturing, healthcare, freight and logistics, agribusiness, education and research industries.

The UDIA and its’ members want to see this come to fruition in its entirety and we are advocating for government and key stakeholders to continue to maintain this vision and not succumb to compromise, if we are to build a globally competitive Sydney.

 UDIA NSW has previously published the Ready for Take Off document, which has reverse engineered what UDIA believes to be the necessary steps for enabling development in the Western City, but we are a long way off meeting these targets. The Aerotropolis SEPP, which has just been released, still needs work and we’ll be collaborating with our members and government stakeholders to ensure the best outcomes for the West and the PIC for infrastructure in GPEC and Aerotropolis are still to be resolved.

UDIA NSW has been working on our 3D city modelling platform, Urban Pinboard with data from leading research institutions and collaboration partners. We support an ‘iron spine’ metro rail connecting the West with the West from Tallawong in the North, to Macarthur in the south and the connection to Leppington linking our two Sydney airports. This essential transport infrastructure is what will accelerate growth in the Western Parkland City. We cannot rely on “build and they will come” – we must make a 21st Century Smart 30-minute city that is bounding with opportunity and is too good to miss out on.

The TOD centres down the iron spine will improve equity outcomes in the West by creating the opportunity to connect homes and jobs in the West with fast metro to the Nancy Bird Walton airport.

In the video playing we have used computational design to create a synthetic cadastre for the undeveloped parts of Western Sydney. The model is then linked to an AI Algorithm based on 3 million residential sales, to provide a valuation assessment and a synthetic city visualisation of the 15 TOD centres creating a new ‘String of Pearls’ Western Parkland City.

Using this data, the Urban AI model has 20,000 buildings forecast for the Western City TODs, and showcases the need for up to three more stations in Stage 1 of the Metro: a station at WSU’s joint campus with TAFE at Werrington, a second station at Orchard Hills and an employment hub station at North Badgerys Creek. The current plans for only six metro stations for the 23 kilometres are insufficient to support the kind of growth expected in the Western Parkland City.

UDIA is also working on an Urban Development Program Pilot in the South West by leveraging our technology to provide a clear line of sight for forward development and infrastructure coordination across Western Sydney.

I strongly believe that the creation and spread of jobs, the right diversity of housing, with sufficient transport links and the roll out of enabling infrastructure are going to be the four key pillars to build the liveable, affordable, and connected Western city, to get it right for our future generations.

UDIA National Advocacy Alert – HomeBuilder Mark 2

UDIA National has today unveiled the findings of new research and recommendations designed to support an extension and re-design of HomeBuilder given the extended economic downturn facing Australia as a result of COVID-19.

UDIA National has lodged a submission with the Commonwealth Government explaining how the loss of immigration and population growth will challenge the national economy. This results in a strong case for extending and modifying HomeBuilder to harness domestic demand to boost housing construction and economic growth.

The Commonwealth Government rightly recognised the crucial role played by the housing and construction sectors in boosting jobs, wages and activity when it launched HomeBuilder in June.

However, Australia now faces a sustained downturn in immigration and population growth, which usually fuel much of the nation’s economic prosperity and demand for new housing construction. That is why UDIA National sought to partner with Urbis to quantify the effect. Our research found:

  • Net Overseas Migration (NOM) accounts for 56 percent of Australia’s dwelling demand, with natural domestic population increases accounting for 44 percent

  • An average per annum reduction of over 50,000 homes per year will occur in the number of new homes being constructed over the next five years

  • $17.9 billion less direct gross value added (GVA) being contributed to the Australian economy between 2020 and 2025 from the loss in construction.

The research did however also find that the residual domestic demand is substantial and could play a crucial role in lifting Australia’s economy especially over the short to medium term. UDIA is now recommending a second tranche of funding to support HomeBuilder as well as design solutions to the Scheme to maximise the benefit.

These recommendations include:

  • Allocating an additional $1.25bn funding stream to support the construction of 50,000 new homes with an anticipated economic stimulus of at least $3 billion into the Australian economy;

  • Adjust the timelines applying to the scheme to provide for greater participation by apartment, townhouse and land development projects that more appropriately mirrors housing demand within Australia by:

    • Extending the timeframes for building contract signing (or split or two-part contracts) or sales contracts (for 1-part contracts) to be entered into from December 31, 2020, by six months to June 30, 2021;

    • Extending the construction timeframes, depending on the nature of the project, with:

      • Detached housing to have a new commencement timeframe of December 31, 2021, and

      • Semi-detached and attached housing (ie: townhouse and apartments projects) to have a new commencement timeframe of December 31, 2022.

    • Redefining the definition of “commencement” to allow for flexibility which accounts for differences in staging, timing and triggers for detached, semi-detached and attached housing products.

  • Amending the definition of house and land price thresholds to remove land costs and in doing so, provide parity between new housing construction and renovation projects;

  • Increase the income thresholds of the scheme to capture a wider range of buyers, given the current limits reflect an approach tailored largely to first home buyers;

  • Providing for the construction of manufactured homes to be used in land lease community to be captured by the scheme, recognising their current exclusion due to requirements around certificate of title;

  • Extend the current grant’s availability in Victoria from December 31 for a further six months and allow for a subsequent extension of the start of the construction phase for a further six months in recognition of the effects of the severe, extended lockdown currently in place; and,

  • To ensure that there is no dislocation in the market, any new arrangements to the scheme’s application should be applied immediately from the date of announcement (rather than a latter date, which would risk seeing homebuyers freeze or delays decisions).

UDIA National has lodged its submission with the Commonwealth Government and is available here.

We look forward to engaging with the Government on its ongoing work to support Australia’s economic recovery.

Simon Basheer

UDIA National President

One on One with Sarah Davis

One on One with UDIA NSW Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member and General Manager-Marketing and Customer, AVID Property Group Linda Walsh and Sarah Davis, Project Manager for Construction Assignments.
Pictured: Sarah Davis, Project Manager for Construction Assignments

LW: When you were starting out in property, is there the kind of role you knew you wanted?

SD: The role I thought I wanted to do was to be an architect and by being an architect I thought I could change the world and my culture, American Culture at that time is when you leave school you choose what you want to do for the rest of your life and you do everything in your power to make that happen and at that time I didn’t realise that what I was choosing wasn’t going to be my ultimate goal and rather that road to be coming and finding a role that suits my strengths, so architecture was my first job in a studio and with a leader that supported me in whatever I set my mind to so from creating new business strategies and endeavors and also I kind of got my hands dirty on the construction side and so half the week I was creating in the office and half the week I was out with this rough and tumble builder using tools and he was telling me everything I could have done better in the office basically, at that time it gave me an amazing perspective of our industry and the many hands that it takes to get the job done.

From there I carried that experience through I wanted to keep going in architecture and become registered, and in the States we have a architecture registration exam much like Australia it is comprised of 7 different exams and one of the most gruelling things I have every undertaken, you were doing that while working full time and I actually failed 4 out of the 7 exams, I finally passed all of them but I remember one day I was on to the exam and the metro stopped in the middle of the tunnel and the lights went out and we sat there for 30 minutes at the time it didn’t really sync with me, Sarah maybe you shouldn’t be doing this I had in my head that I had to be architect and I was going to everything in my power to make that happen. So, I got through the exams and practiced in the States for a little while and them moved here to Sydney.

Sydney transformed me in a way, I jumped in to leading a team of 10 architects, designers and draftsman, some of them 30 years my senior at that time, the growth in the learning in this role is just significant, I quickly then learnt that my skills sets were not actually what an architect is necessarily, I didn’t ignore the 1-10 details and specifying building materials but what I gravitated towards where motivating teams to share and release their talents and to make the buildings the best they could be, I organised our weeks for deadlines, and liaising with builders to resolve problems and come to a middle ground of understanding and also to the clients, the clients were some of the most inspiring because they have a set of limitations of their own and so working with that and understanding them, I thought I had to play to my strengths rather than working on all of my weaknesses and areas of improvement as what a picture perfect architect looked like, I think that is the beauty of growing up a bit, moving from your 20’s to your 30’s and thinking what do I want to do and what works for me, so long story short no this is not what I originally set out to do, it may not be where I end up, you just don’t know.

LW: Exactly those things happen to pretty much all of us.

LW: Have there been moments you’ve felt particularly challenged in your life or career?

SD: Yeah, absolutely we all encounter bits of these along the way, for me the one that I think I would like to share is when I moved to Australia 2015, I have been faced with something I have never previously faced with, I don’t know if that is because just I wasn’t at the point yet and I was always doing the grunt work and wasn’t facing certain personality types and leaders, but what I have been faced with a lot of oppressive behaviours particularly in our industry, the things I am talking about is bullying in the workplace, micro -managing, exercising of bravado, yelling to make points clear, and been told to stop talking when I am leaving a meeting or been told get this to me in 2 hours’ time it’s something that would take a day of work.

Been told I am emotional when expressing frustration that fundamental delivery dates where not been met. These types of things I have seen consistently over and over again, it shakes you a little bit, when it is the same group of people that are doing it. I can say everyone of these circumstances has been automatously from men within our industry, who at 45 years or older, I say this as education, I am not saying it as let me target this group, I do affectionally in fun way refer to them as dinosaurs, longing for a time when they were the only decision makers in a room full of people who where the same as them, they looked like them, they spoke like them and before anyone was holding anyone accountable for words and actions just be better humans here, you don’t speak to others like this. I was sharing this story with my husband in preparation for talking to you, I think people are going to think I am winging, I am just going to this young woman up here winging, what’s interesting is my husband works in construction and he coaches rugby, he a sports fanatic and he feels exactly the same way with the leadership he’s encountering in construction especially and what it comes down to I think is there is this massive focus on the bottom line, profit, are we making money period and then how we get there and treat people along the way and the process of getting there doesn’t really matter, so it’s interesting to me that it is a consistent thing not just for people that look and speak like me but my husband who had a different background as well.

LW: How do you feel about navigating through that?

SB: Honestly when it first started happening I remember been like wow what I have I done wrong to trigger this person to treat me this way, I have since learned it not so much what I have done it’s, it’s that person is working things through, they are either insecure or lacking fulfillment and they need belittle or speak down to someone else to make themselves feel better, it is not really my responsibility or my doing but their own and then the other part to this, a more recent lesson, you can’t play the victim all the time, sometimes the aggressors are not always responsibility for understanding that those behaviours are unacceptable, my mindset was I was partly responsible as I tolerated it, I tolerated to remain professional which communicated to them that this is okay to treat someone like this and this is, it’s not okay and it’s not professional, and it most certainly not how anyone, I don’t care if you are the janitor or the CEO you should not speak to anyone in those manners and so in the end you can’t always play the victim, you have to stand up establish boundaries and respect, not just for yourself, this is the interesting thing and a little bit more motivating for me to, it’s not just me it’s any person that encounters that person beyond me, which is empowering and encouraging, you wouldn’t want your friends or your children to encounter the same thing.

LW: What advice would you give any person who is going through that, what sort of advice would you give them to navigate through that based on your experience.

SB: Everyone has got different, I guess what they are comfortable with, more so if it is in your gut that something is not right you just have to trust it and you can’t, I know it hard choosing the right time and place, but what I have found if that even if you are in boardroom and someone does something outlandish, like I had someone blow up and literally scream shout stand up and leave, obviously you can’t at that time address it with that person so regardless if you are trying to keep the peace in a bigger setting, the best thing it to ring that person or meet them face to face if you can and have a chat and just set, let them know what they did and it didn’t sit right with you and you want to move together and move past this and it re-sets expectations and gives them the respect of not calling them out in front of a lot of people.

LW: What is it about the property and construction industry that you love the most? Least like?

SD: That is an easy for me it’s people the unique skill sets in contributions they make as we touched on earlier it’s the massive teams it takes to actually pull off development from the first date that someone goes I have this site or property and what can we do, the amount of consultants, experts and clients contractors to make that come to fruition is extraordinary and the co-ordination of all these people who communicate differently they come from different environments all to execute just one common vision it’s pretty cool. When that is coupled, these projects are few and far between when that is coupled with improving the life of the end users and especially in a public space, I think that is really cool.

LW: Yeah, it’s a bit of legacy that you are leaving behind.

SD: Exactly

LW: Equally what are the thing that you don’t like about the industry?

SD: Probably closed tied with what we’re talking about before with the challenges we face, more specifically it’s more the lack of courageous s leaders, they are the ones that create these toxic behaviours cultures that is passed down and when you are in those cultures that is kind of what you learn and what you know and then you pass it on. And so yeah it is put down to the top and often times when you have these folks, leaders that are not courageous they are not willing to address the tough conversations and that is where I would like to relate that to diversity and inclusion because I think that one of the first things that is put in the two hard basket is diversity and inclusion, because often they don’t identify with it so it becomes a challenge to discuss and unpack some of those things. There is a lot good to be taped into to give it the time and attention it deserves.

LW: Do you think there is opportunities to embrace diversity and inclusion more so than we are seeing today?

SD: Yes absolutely, we have had a lot of opportunities to talk about this together with our work at UDIA in the past, there are 3 things that really come to mind.

The first thing is addressing privilege, I know this now a much more common term but it has been going on a long time, but I think we have to address fundamentally our industry is flawed and exclusive when it comes to this and once we acknowledge that the playing field is not level we can begin rebuilding it.

The second thing would be gender isolated professional organisation they seem to be multiplying I have been in them, I have tried it, maybe I can identify this will be good but I have always not felt fulfilled in them, the reason is that is because it was creating a us v them mentality and a lot of the talks and events were based on the differences and to me this highlighted the problem more that working towards a future so that is another thing.

The last is probably, difficult one especially in today’s COVID times, but this is something I saw prior to COVID, that I think more attention could be given to investing in foreigners, people that don’t look like you, speak like you, different background as you, reason being is what I am seeing is I have dealt with many folks in our industry that have come from overseas, I also come from overseas but I have the privilege to speak English very well and I achieve certain professional qualifications, but they have as well, but when they come here they are told you have to be able to speak English this way, you have to re-take all your education, your profession achievements don’t qualify here re take them, that is an issue as you are not giving people the opportunity to share and there acknowledge their skills sets that already exists, because you necessarily can’t understand them there contributing and how they are contributing, I think it’s that whole 2 sides thing there has to be an effort or willingness to build and grow from both sides and that is one thing I see consistently hitting a road block for a lot of folks.

LW: A lot of work left to do.

SD: Yeah and also it’s like a tick box thing, I have a lot of people from all round the world isn’t that great we are doing a good job, but what are the roles these people are doing in the office, that would tell me a lot more about it.

LW: What’s your One Thing You are doing in the diversity & inclusion space or businesses you work for?

SD: Look what I do now is just personal connections, as I mentioned earlier there are a lot of folks in our industry that I have come across from different backgrounds, they have hit a lot of hurdles in our industry where they feel stuck and don’t feel respected, and it is challenging, my role honestly now with this is to motivate and encourage and utilise my network to build for those who don’t necessarily have the same privilege, I guess what you can relate this to what is happening socially across the world is the share the mic platform and you will see especially with the Black Lives Matter movement in the states, you are seeing a lot of white celebrity females sharing their Instagram pages for example for a day, they just hand it over to someone else to share their story and this offers a really authentic perspective, so while I am not a celebrity in all of this, I do think that given certain tools with privilege what you can do to give back is to share those and make them available to others.

The coolest thing I have seen to date, a friend of mine who has gone through this and we have just had to fall down and get built back up with a lot of these things in our industry but then once you understand that person you know someone from another company you can connect them and they can work together in a nurturing like really effective empowering environment they can do greatness, that is really cool to see.

There is another “gal” that I worked with when I first came here, she and I arrived from overseas at the same time, she was from Poland and I was from the States, same age, and tried to do that same things but she didn’t get to move forward advance where we were at together, so what she has since gone on to do is become a Director of her own company. Seeing that happen, not necessarily because of me, more so because of them, but merging them along those paths to be who they are and do what that they want do is a really cool thing.

The last thing I am going to mention on this is a gal that I became very well acquainted with her name is Alma Besserdin she is the creator of an organisation called Wimmigrants, she actually contacted me when I was at UDIA when I was doing the Diversity and Inclusion and she mainly works with male and female immigrants who come in and they need to find their way with their qualifications and get involved because sometimes is hard to just get that first interview so she does training and workshops and CV courses and things like that to build them up because she herself was also an immigrant but she now again has her own organisation.

LW: Fantastic what a great story, and there are a lot of people who have similar stories out there, thanks for sharing yours, because a lot of people are in the same boat and hopefully listening to your story today has made them think that is me as well or got them to think about people they do know so thanks for that.

LW: Sarah thank you very much for your time today we really appreciated you giving insights into your story and reflections of Diversity and Inclusion I am sure a lot of our members today who really appreciate what they have learnt.

SD: Thank you it is my pleasure and the story continue to evolve.


This interview forms part of a UDIA D&I Committee initiative series to encourage and highlight more diversity in UDIA and the property industry. It is intended to highlight diversity by profiling our members through industry publications on a regular basis throughout the year. Thank you to Sarah Davis, Project Manager from Construction Assignments.


Since 2018, the Diversity & Inclusion Committee has been one of the key Business Advisory Committees for the UDIA NSW, focussed on improving and promoting diversity and inclusion in the UDIA and our industry. This year, we launched the ‘One Thing’ campaign – celebrating and sharing the ‘one thing’ that we’re doing to empower people by respecting, supporting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, beliefs, disability, sexual orientation, and education. What’s your One Thing?