Australia has signed up its first foreign architects through the APEC Architect process which aims to facilitate a common standard of professional competency across participating countries.  

Japanese graduate architect Megumi Sakaguchi, who works for PTW in Sydney, is on the brink of becoming the third APEC architect to receive Australian accreditation since the scheme began operation in 2005.

Fourteen ‘economies’ in total have committed to the APEC Architect scheme and the Architects Accreditation Council of Australia (AACA) says the framework facilitates access for APEC Architects to independently practice within those regions.

But the AACA website lists only 21 Australian registered APEC Architects, which is a relatively small number compared to Japan were there is around 200.

One of those 21 Australian APEC Architects, who wishes not to be named, believes that the small participation in the scheme from Australian architects is due to the lack of transparency and organisation from some of the registration entities in participating economies.

 “It’s great in theory but there are countries in the scheme with some really strange laws that it won’t facilitate with earning an accreditation at all; a lot of closed shops so to speak.

“By the same token there are places like Singapore where I am pretty sure it would be an open and transparent process, and therefore beneficial.

“What it does give you is the right to register in another economy without having to go through the preregistration requirements.  

“This means you are already deemed competent to practice in that country but you still have to go to the institute, registration board or whatever they have, and ask for registration.

“But you’re not going to do that unless you have some pretty big commitments in that region or economy.”

Similarly, Kate Doyle, head of the Canberra-based AACA, told the Australian Financial Review that the disinterest from Australian architects towards the scheme is due to partly because it’s unnecessary in most circumstances—you can work overseas in association with a local architect or as a consultant without it, and that the ­jurisdictions Australia has specific agreements with – Japan, Singapore and Taipei – aren’t key destinations Australian designers want to find work in.

“China, one country where many Australians work, has not signed up to the APEC agreement. The UK used to have mutual recognition with Australia, but closer European Union ties led it to end the scheme,” she told the AFR.

“Once we have agreements with places like Canada and the US, then we’ll see a whole lot of mutual benefits for our architects and their architects.”