Applications open for Future Leaders 2017

Over the past decade, Future Leaders, funded by Wine Australia, and a joint initiative of Wine Australia and the two major sector bodies, Australian Vignerons and Winemakers’ Federation of Australia, has helped the Australian wine community prepare for the challenges of tomorrow by building today the capabilities of the next generation of leaders.

The 91 Future Leaders alumni include winemakers, grapegrowers and viticulturists, business managers and marketers, suppliers and researchers, who have already demonstrated the strong leadership and vision required to position Australia as a fine wine leader on the global stage.

Anne Duncan, Global Knowledge and People Development Manager at Wine Australia, is overseeing the 2017 program and says a leadership drought is one of the biggest risks the sector faces.

‘The international and domestic wine markets are highly competitive and that’s not going to change. To ensure our sector’s future success we need the next generation of leaders to be ready to take us forward.

‘We need leaders who can be catalysts for innovation, who can adapt to the inevitable changes that our sector will face in the future, and who can drive the continual evolution of the Australian wine story, be they winemakers, grapegrowers, export managers or researchers.’

A Future Leader heads in a new leadership direction

If Rebekah Richardson is any guide, graduating from the wine sector’s Future Leaders program equips you to make some bold career moves.

A few months ago, Rebekah took many people by surprise when she announced that she was stepping down from her high-profile role as Group White and Sparkling Winemaker for Pernod Ricard Winemakers. She still loved the job, loved the place and was proud of what she was achieving, but after 10 years she felt that it was time to stretch her wings.

She planned to work as a wine sector consultant until an initial approach from a small Barossa Valley winery turned into a broader discussion and a proposition that suited them both. So when Rebekah returns from her current ‘odyssey’ driving across the US (but not on her much loved Ducati), she’ll be helping make the wine, build the brand and shape the future for Irvine Wines near Angaston.

‘It should be fun and combine the skills I’ve learnt in the last 20 years’, she said.

Rebekah’s career was mapped out at the age of 14 when she visited Champagne during a trip to France and fell in love with the idea of sparkling wine. She studied at Charles Sturt University, worked around Australia, completed several overseas vintages and then, in 2006, arrived at Orlando Wines.

Four years later, Rebekah was accepted into the fourth intake of the Future Leaders program.

‘I applied in the first place because I thought it would be a great way to meet other people in the sector who wanted to see change and cared about the direction we were heading in. It was perceived as a great leadership step, helping to round out an understanding of many facets of wine within Australia’, she said.

‘I was looking to improve my leadership with a focus on the Australian wine sector. This is where the program is unique, I believe, as it helps people build personally but also create and develop within our own very special community.’

Like many graduates before and since (there have been 91 from 6 intakes since 2006), Rebekah says the at times challenging program ‘opened up networks, but gave me a much broader and well thought out process for the future’.

‘For me it was about having a clear understanding of how we could affect change outside our own small areas or regions’, she said. ‘It has made an impact on my decisions in that I think much more about the whole sector and how I can help rather than just about my day-to-day job.’

Rebekah’s advice for budding Future Leaders? ‘Make the most of it, throw yourself into it and always look at it as a way to create a stronger and better wine future for the whole of Australia.’

Future Leaders 17 program

This year, Future Leaders has been reshaped and re-aligned with Pragmatic Thinking brought on board to facilitate the 2017 program.

In a dynamic and evolving sector, this year’s program will explore new venues in business, marketing and governance, and will also look at how global economics will shape the future.

Participants will look at new technology, how they can amplify the innovative thinking that already exists in our sector, and will learn contemporary approaches to people development and commercial success.

They’ll hear from some of Australia’s best speakers on topics such as innovation, leadership and culture, and they’ll connect with people from across the grape and wine community, including Future Leaders alumni.

How to apply

If you’re ready to be challenged, ready to step up and ready to help shape the future of Australia’s grape and wine community, head to to apply.

Applications are now open and close on Monday 9 March 2017. If you know of someone who you think is ready to be next, make sure that you tap them on the shoulder or tag them using #FL2017 and encourage them to put in an application.