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Recognition for winemaker

Sophie ElliottBusselton Dunsborough Times
Winemaker and winery owner Cath Oates has been selected for an agriculture leadership program.
Camera IconWinemaker and winery owner Cath Oates has been selected for an agriculture leadership program. Credit: David Dare Parker/Picture: David Dare Parker

Wilyabrup winemaker Cath Oates has been selected as one of 10 women in Australia to take part in the 2019 Diversity in Agriculture Leadership Program.

The program is an initiative of the National Farmers’ Federation and aims to fix agriculture’s “gender problem” by developing and empowering female leaders.

Ms Oates said she had heard great things about the program, which was only in its second year, and encouraged other women in the wine industry to apply next year.

“I certainly see us as part of the agriculture sector,” she said.

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“We are all involved in farming the land.

“We take produce and turn it into a finished product, but we still have the same concerns about sustainability, climate change and other topics as the rest of the industry.

National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson said women made up 41 per cent the agricultural workforce but only 18 per cent of management roles and 2.3 per cent of chief executive positions. “This is out of step with other comparable industries and is a statistic that the NFF and our committed program partners are determined to rectify,” she said.

“It's time that women are equally represented at the level where decisions are taken that shape the future of our industry and rural and regional Australia more broadly.”

Within the wine industry, Ms Oates is no stranger to leadership roles.

She is an owner of Oates Ends, has her own wine consultancy, is on the board of Wine Australia and is vice-president of Wines of WA.

She has previously been president ofthe Great Southern Wine Producers Association and Margaret River Wine Association, as well as being the first chief female winemaker of Plantagenet Wines.

Ms Oates said she did not feel her gender had held her back.

“Margaret River is unique — there are lots of family-run businesses, which are led by some amazing women, so I never really thought being a women would make my career path difficult as I didn’t see it as an issue for people around me,” she said. “I think I have shown that it doesn’t stop you.

“There have definitely been challenges along the way.

“I’ve had some fairly inappropriate job interviews and had to negotiate some difficult environments, but if you have perseverance and are good at your job, there is definitely opportunity.”

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