Architect and academic Cathy Smith is the inaugural recipient of the Turnbull Foundation Women in Built Environment Scholarship.

The $95,000 scholarship supports professional women to undertake postgraduate education at UNSW’s Faculty of Built Environment, and provides access to UNSW’s Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) Women in Leadership Program.

The scholarship, an initiative of Greater Sydney Commissioner Lucy Turnbull’s Turnbull Foundation, was announced on Wednesday night at UNSW’s annual Engaging Women in Built Environment networking event, which aims to increase the number of women in leadership roles by 50 per cent within the next eight years.

“It gives me great pleasure to announce Cathy Smith as our scholarship winner,” Ms Turnbull said.

“Cathy is a spectacular architecture academic who is particularly interested in the boundaries between community-led interventions in public spaces and institutional interventions, which is an area that particularly fascinates me.”

Ms Smith, a senior lecturer at the School of Architecture and Built Environment at the University of Newcastle, said she was thrilled to receive the scholarship.

“I’m balancing family life with work so I’m very aware of where to put my efforts,” she said. “The scholarship will allow me to study, reflect and chart the future of my career in a strategic way.”

She will use the scholarship to develop research on grassroots-driven urbanism, particularly around local residents creating temporary interventions to improve the surrounding environment and community.

“I’m interested in that ‘transition moment’ when community-orientated urbanism and sanctioned forms of development intersect,” she said.

“My thesis aims to highlight the challenges and productivity associated with this intersection and how they are both critical to the construction of the 21st century city.”

Ms Smith is also working on issues of equity and gender diversity, currently working with the NSW Australian Institute of Architects Education Committee on a national survey that addresses these issues within Australian architecture schools.

“The interaction between the issues of ethics, women and city making is of particular interest to me,” she said.

“I would like my interdisciplinary research to positively contribute to this area.”

Ms Turnbull said women were increasingly instrumental in shaping cities through design, planning and construction, though often “behind the scenes”.

“The key is to move more women into leadership roles where they can have a seat at the table and tangible impact, shaping not only the form of our cities but the way they are made, and play a greater role in identifying great urban form and design that is also feasible and practicable to deliver.”

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