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Australian Women in Wine Awards 2015

Reporting on the first Australian Women in Wine Awards, Simone Madden-Grey writes that recognising women in the industry is a key to encouraging a fair environment for people of all backgrounds, ages or genders in winemaking.

The first Australian Women in Wine Awards (AWIWA) took place across the country on Tuesday 17 November. The idea, from The Fabulous Ladies Wine Society founder Jane Thomson, was inspired by her attendance earlier this year at the first Global Symposium for Women of the Vine.

The context for the AWIWA, as advisory board member Jeni Port describes it, is to “celebrate strong women doing really well in an industry that can do better” and to focus on the need to “embrace a fair workplace environment that treats everyone with due regard irrespective of gender, age or cultural background”.

If there are any doubts as to the need for highlighting the role of women in the wine industry then surely the statistics shared in a recent article by Max Allen for The Australian have put those doubts to rest. Without question there is a need to provide an inclusive and supportive environment in order to develop the presence of women in the workplace at all levels. With representation in winemaking and viticulture on the decline for women, despite the increase in enrolments for oenology and viticulture degree programmes, there are obvious challenges ahead for the industry if they are to follow through and claim those students as long term members of the Australian wine industry.

While increasing representation in the industry is a work in progress, the reception to initiatives that do just that is encouraging. Ms Port describes the team as being “thrilled at the response” to the launch of the AWIWA.

Ulithorne Wines’ winemaker Rose Kentish won Winemaker of the Year (Photo: Ulithorne Wines)

Understanding that improving the workplace experience for any employee must be done in a collaborative manner, the AWIWA categories also included a Workplace Champion of Change award, open to male and female entrants. This category recognises a business, business leader or community group in the industry for their outstanding contribution towards gender equality and diversity in the workplace. Dianne Laurance of Laurance Wines in Margaret River, Western Australia was this year’s winner.

Other winners on the night were:

  • Winemaker of the Year – Rose Kentish, Ulithorne Wines (McLaren Vale)
  • Owner / Operator of the Year – Rebecca Duffy, Holm Oak Vineyards (Tasmania)
  • Viticulturist of the Year – Irina Santiago-Brown, Inkwell Wines (McLaren Vale)

In addition to the awards, which were streamed live across the country at multiple local events, the organisers of the Melbourne event included a professional development opportunity, which took the form of a scholarship for a women wishing to undertake WSET Level 2 or Level 3 studies. In speaking with Sarah Andrew of Selador Wines, herself a finalist in the Owner/Operator category, the idea for the scholarship came from discussions with fellow wine educator Jenny Polack, as to the importance of education in empowering women in the industry.

Raising funds for the scholarship through a raffle held at the Melbourne event, together with the support of the Dean Lappen Foundation resulted in an additional scholarship being offered, affording two applicants working in the trade from Victoria the opportunity for further study.

It is the goal of the organisers that the AWIWA will become a permanent part of industry dialogue by focussing attention on women and their experience in the Australian wine industry – surely we are all in agreement that the recent statistics need to change.

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