Q & A with Maree Davenport

Congratulations on your appointment as SCA (VIC) Chief Executive Officer in 2019. What are your priorities over the next 12 months?

There are so many challenges facing the strata sector, many relate to building defects and the use of dangerous, non-compliant and not fit for purpose building materials. There are currently over 85,000 active owners’ corporations in Victoria, covering more than 772,000 individual lots. It is estimated that around 1.5 million Victorians — a quarter of the state’s population — either live in, or own property in, an owners’ corporation. I am prioritising the expansion of our membership to lot owners, to empower them through support, education and training. SCA (Vic) will be the voice of the strata sector for owners and industry suppliers. 

Your extensive career has included previous government and lobbying roles. What appeals to you about working specifically in strata?

My first career was in property and I have always been attracted to the dynamic nature of the sector. I enjoy dealing with people and am fascinated by the built environment, so the strata sector is a natural fit. I established my business in 2004 and the Institute of Body Corporate Managers Victoria appointed me to assist with communications and advocacy. I’d been involved in the policy work which led to the development of the Owners Corporations Act, passed in 2006. I developed consumer information on the new Act and regulations and delivered information forums with the new Owners Corporations Victoria, now SCA (Vic), for Consumer Affairs Victoria. Since then the strata sector has grown exponentially. It is a vibrant and exciting area to work in and advocate for. It’s nice to be back with some familiar faces who have remained involved since the mid-2000’s.

In 2002, after serving two terms as a Member of Parliament, you were defeated. How did you find that experience and how has your background in government served you in your new position so far?

I was almost elected in 1992, aged 23 after gaining a huge swing to be unsuccessful by 36 votes. I was then a Ministerial Advisor in the Kennett Government and worked closely with the Leader of the House on the legislative program, Parliamentary business and regulatory review. In 1996, I was the youngest woman ever elected and my son was 14 months old. My daughter was the first born to an MP in 1997. It is the public policy that attracted me. I love the theatre of politics, but it can also be utterly brutal. I was Parliamentary Secretary (Assistant Minister) in Health Housing, Community Services and Aged Care and I was also appointed to Chair the Redundant Legislation Committee, Deputy Chair of the Regulation Review Committee and Scrutiny of Acts Joint All Party Committees. That experience has served me well in my professional

life since politics, especially in heavily regulated industries like property and building in particular.

A previous Member of the VBA Building Appeals Board and current Chair of the Victorian Government Building Advisory Council, how will your expertise in the building industry be utilised in the position of SCA (VIC) CEO? 

For almost a decade I have held statutory Government positions in building during the most challenging and confronting period for the building and construction industry. The systemic and regulatory failures are appalling. The victims of greed and incompetence are the Lot Owners already the broken part of the building chain, potentially smashed financially. Imagine being told that there was no consumer protection and being ordered to rectify dangerous cladding on a building you purchased in good faith. While a legislative line has been drawn in the sand to improve building regulation going forward, for Lot Owners and occupiers there is no mitigation for personal anguish and financial loss resulting from this crisis. It is also a crisis in confidence and that puts asset value at risk.

It is also imperative that strata managers are supported by Government legislation which is fair and values their important role.  Their job is also made easier when their clients are empowered with knowledge of the Act and Regulatory compliance obligations.

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