Anita Lawrence (1930 - 2019)

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Anita Lawrence was a pioneer in her field. She led the way for women in Australia when she became first woman to graduate from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) with a medal of recognition and the first female Chair on first Australian standard on environmental noise.

A pioneer in the field of acoustics and its place in architecture, Anita Lawrence was a woman of many firsts.

The first woman to graduate from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) with a medal of recognition, the first woman on the committee responsible for the first Australian standard on environmental noise, and the driving force behind the development of the first post-graduate degree in acoustics.

Ms Lawrence moved to Australia in 1946 from the United Kingdom (UK), she was educated at UNSW and became the first female graduate in the Architecture Department.

After undertaking some projects at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) she joined the UNSW academic staff and completed a 32-year teaching and research career specialising in acoustics, ultimately achieving an Associate Professor position.

Ms Lawrence would later receive the University Medal in 1995 in recognition of her esteemed academic and industry experience.
Ms Lawrence was tireless in her quest to develop a wide understanding around the importance of considered acoustic design in architecture. She was a believer that all built environment professionals should understand and value the practice of acoustics.

“A person’s experience of a building can be drastically altered by bad acoustics — it’s imperative that architects, builders and landscape architects understand the importance of achieving optimal sound in a room or building,” she explained.

Ms Lawrence’s dedication was evident in her effort and commitment to standards. She was Chair of the Standards Australia Committee that produced the first Australian Standard on environmental noise, AS 1055.

This standard detailed measurement procedures and provided guidance on typical noise levels based on land-use planning and time-of-day which were used as the basis for most environmental noise regulations at that time.

Ms Lawrence also played a pivotal role in developing numerous other Australian acoustics standards.

By 1964, after establishing the first post-graduate course in acoustics in Australia (at UNSW), Ms Lawrence became the first woman on and founding member of the Australian Acoustical Society (AAS). 

After her passing, her legacy continued, she left $2.3M in her will, which was specifically allocated to enhance teaching and research in acoustics and the built environment. This generous grant is being used to support PhD students.

“Anita was an inspiration to many and leaves an outstanding legacy. Her commitment, enthusiasm and effort in acoustic design is unmatched and she paved the way for many women in her field. She is an obvious Standards Heroes and we’re pleased to recognise her in our centenary year,” said Adrian O’Connell, Chief Executive Officer at Standards Australia.

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