In a courageous and surprising move this week, the Wine Grape Growers Australia (WGGA) Executive Committee announced the appointment of Adelaide lawyer Joanna Andrew as its new independent chair taking the reins from Vic Patrick. Joanna is the first person to be appointed as an “independent” Chair of the federal growers’ body after almost a century of continuous Federal grower representation through the former Wine Grape Council of Australia and the WGGA. ‘Riverland Wine will certainly be rolling out the red carpet for Joanna in due course’ said EO Chris Byrne. He added, ‘we congratulate her and we congratulate the selection panel. The move to appoint an Independent Chair at this crucial time of industry upheaval and change is a bold move; one that Riverland Wine wholeheartedly endorses’.
This region recognised the need for an independent chair in 2006 when Roseanne Healy was first appointed as independent RWGA chair. She was succeeded by Brian Walsh in 2013. Both these “independents” have placed strong emphasis on governance standards and strategic planning; always mindful of the primary responsibilities to communicate openly and frequently with members, to grapple with the imperative to remain financially viable during the industry’s most difficult decade and above all, to listen to members and deliver outcomes.
In the coming weeks, this column will publish a more comprehensive profile of the new federal chair once she has a chance to be fully briefed and to form her own views about the way forward. Her immediate priority will be a comprehensive briefing regarding the Grape and Wine 2015 program, presently being coordinated jointly between growers and winemakers with a strong focus on industry reforms that will pave the way for a return to profitability and sustainability.
Riverland Wine will invite the new chair to meet with the management committee as soon as it is practical to do so.