What does the University of Adelaide Act (1971) and the Phylloxera and Grape Industry Act (1995) have in common?  The answer is quite a bit.

Both were created in the same era: Vinehealth by the Phylloxera Act in 1899 and the University of Adelaide in 1874.

Both entities report to their respective State Minister, both institutions exist to bring globally relevant knowledge and learning to South Australia and both have specialised capability to do so.

As outgoing Chair of Vinehealth Australia and having served on the Board for six years, it seems timely to make a personal observation – namely, that Vinehealth’s most significant risk is that of being mischaracterised.

Vinehealth and the University of Adelaide are similar in their South Australian legislative origins and yet vastly different in access to funds, which is a key determinant of value.

The University of Adelaide is widely characterised as ‘located in Adelaide’. A characterisation that could just as accurately describe Vinehealth Australia and yet instead it struggles within a perceived federated framework where you must be either ‘National’ or ‘State’.

What I first saw as idiosyncratic for the wine industry and to some extent agriculture broadly, I now see as a fundamentally flawed system for Vinehealth Australia and no doubt others.

Looking at the University of Adelaide Annual report it is clear that neither its location, legislative responsibilities to the State Minister, nor the existence of a primary source of legislative funding (students in its case) has in any way impeded its eligibility or suitability to attract investment funds from outside the State. Quite the contrary. Research, Development, Extension, Commercialisation and Innovations (RDEC&I) funding is worn as a badge of honour.

Vinehealth Australia is celebrating its 120th year this year and it is fair to say that much has changed in that time. At a strategic level, the industry needs to recognise that trying to place specialist providers or institutions into neat boxes of ‘state’ or ‘national’ is quite simply outdated.

Vinehealth Australia is globally regarded for its strategic biosecurity management services in an area that is key to Australia’s competitiveness.  

To put what Vinehealth Australia does on the ground in investment terms, it delivers the Development, Extension, Commercialisation and Innovation for the industry’s research.

Examples of industry capability building that could inform the future for Vinehealth Australia include State Government and industry joint ventures, bilateral funding agreements and so on. The Australian Wine Research Institute is such an example. The opportunity for the industry to draw from these models is significant.

The wine industry remains one of Australia’s most exciting industries by virtue of its sensory appeal, connection with places and people and its $40.2 billion-dollar contribution to the Australian economy annually.

Biosecurity, while not front page news, it is a top tier risk. I encourage the industry to examine and re-focus its commitment to Vinehealth Australia and the dedicated team I have had the pleasure of working with over the past six years.

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