8 Nov 2023

To celebrate World Town Planning Day, we speak to Urbis Director, Julie Saunders, as she reflects on her year after being awarded the ‘2023 Planning Institute of Australia (QLD) Outstanding Women in Planning’ and her insights on the opportunities and challenges facing the planning industry. 

What do you think are the biggest planning issues currently facing communities?

There has never been a more important time for planners to steward our communities through some of the most challenging and complex issues we face today. The current housing crisis is paramount, and my hope is that the structural changes we put in place ensure we never experience the current environment we find ourselves.

There never is one issue, and in combination with housing, a better approach to inclusion in planning for our communities is needed. Sustainability and climate adaption are also some of the biggest intergenerational planning issues we face. These three issues are not mutually exclusive, and in combination, require planners to take a leadership role in navigating communities to a better future.

Reflecting on the past year, what’s your biggest achievement that made you proud to be a female director in Planning?

I just can’t choose one. But working with communities in helping to create better places – particularly in the area of social infrastructure is pretty rewarding.

Could you share some remarkable projects you’ve been involved in and describe your experience as a woman in the field of planning?

All the housing work I’m doing with local governments and state government. But probably the biggest was the recent work for the Federal Government that has helped to shape the planning reform agenda across the nation.

Can you discuss any challenges or obstacles you overcame as a female Planner?

Lots – balancing being a mum and full time professional, working harder to demonstrate capability, but I have also been given lots of opportunities which far outweigh the obstacles.

How have you inspired and empowered others in the field, especially women?

I’m all about the sisterhood. It is critically important that women support each other and lift each other up. I take every opportunity to ensure I can support another female. Mirco or macro moments. They all count!

Since winning the award, how have you advocated for gender equality and advancement of women in the profession?

I have always advocated – the award has been aware to magnify my role in providing a positive role model to other female professionals in an authentic way. I have also attended a few planning events this year which has been great to connect with other planners!

Can you describe your positive impact on your planning work on local communities?

Navigating communities through complex issues to achieve better outcomes is a stand out. Whether this is through planning for schools, hospitals and housing. They are all essential in supporting health communities.

How do you continue to provide creative solutions in your field of planning?

I’m passionate about ensuring we plan for community infrastructure. It is critical to the wellbeing of our communities. This is what motivates me each day.

Can you describe your role as a mentor and leader in the planning community?

As a female leader with a diverse experience I use my practice to demonstrate you can as a woman define your own path. You need to be authentic and true to yourself.

Reflect on the broader importance of recognising and celebrating women’s contributions to planning, what does that mean to you?

All planners have a role to plan in stewarding our communities to educate them on good planning outcomes.


Town Planning is incredibly important to the future of our communities – and we’re proud to play our part. 

You can read more about Julie’s award win here.