This project underpins and enables the AWRI’s research, development, extension, and commercial activities through the leadership and essential services provided by the Corporate Services group. The group works closely with the AWRI Board to provide an appropriate mix of strategic, commercial, and scientific leadership, guidance and support to all AWRI staff.
Project personnel are highly experienced and possess a strong track record of delivery within their respective functions. This is demonstrated by factors including the steady growth in the scope of the AWRI’s activities, the enduring high level of support for the AWRI among its stakeholders, and a positive internal culture. A focus for many years on achieving operating efficiencies, reducing the organisational cost base (including achieving concessional status where available), and prudent financial management, has positioned the AWRI as a low-cost and efficient service provider on a sound financial footing. Future Corporate Services activities will continue to pursue such objectives.
Through the continued adoption and application of ‘best practice’ principles as they apply to the scope of the AWRI’s management and administration activities, essential support services will be efficiently and effectively delivered on an ongoing basis. These encompass leadership and administration, business development, contract management, finance and accounting, human resources, information technology, operations management and risk management (including work health and safety).
Core activities included financial management; budgeting; and reporting to the AWRI’s management and Board, funding organisations (particularly Wine Australia) and various arms of government. Back office support was also provided to entities such as the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference, Interwinery Analysis Group and the Wine Innovation Cluster, including its Crush symposium. Other notable activities included an external review and strengthening of controls mitigating the risk of social engineering fraud, the implementation of a new expense management platform for the use of all staff and the further leveraging of the organisation’s charitable status to secure relief from certain credit card interchange fees. The AWRI’s diversified investment portfolio continued to generate an appropriate level of return, underpinning the organisation’s ability to further invest in critical capabilities and activities to support the Australian grape and wine industry. During the year similar diversified portfolios were also implemented for the assets of the four memorial trusts for which the AWRI acts as unrewarded trustee, to generate higher levels of return (in a risk-appropriate manner) with which to achieve the trusts’ objectives.
This capability maintains responsibility for a broad range of functions including recruitment, employment contract management, visas, payroll and compliance activities. In 2018/2019 a new platform for leave management was tested and implemented. AWRI staff received group training in mental health first aid, management skills, preparing posters and delivering presentations in addition to numerous individual professional development activities. Many of the AWRI’s directors make a substantial contribution to these activities by nominating for their directorship fees to be made available for such purposes, and their support is gratefully acknowledged. The annual staff survey once again highlighted the AWRI’s positive working environment, with more than 90% of respondents confirming that ‘all things considered, the AWRI is a great place to work’. Themes which consistently contribute to this outcome include the diversity of work, the collaborative, productive and passionate workplace culture and close engagement with industry.
Cost-effective custom-designed and manufactured engineering solutions were provided to support a range of AWRI projects. Recent examples included experimental equipment for ‘smoke tainting’ wine-grapes, gas-dosing equipment for pilot- and commercial-scale fermentations, installation of supporting infrastructure for new instrumentation and refurbishment of a bottling line used to package research wines. Broader activities involved developing solutions to space constraints faced across the AWRI’s laboratory, office and storage environments, including modifications to the AWRI’s premises to enhance storage capacity for frozen materials and bottled research wines, reconfiguration of a number of office environments and the securing and fit-out of an off-site storage facility.
Corporate governance and legal support
Key activities this year included conducting a periodic internal review of the Board and its processes, arranging work health and safety and corporate governance update sessions for the Board while maintaining good corporate governance practices in relation to risk management, policy review and contract management.
This year saw the completion of the first IT Strategic Plan – on time and on budget – and the development and subsequent approval of the next IT Strategic Plan for the period 2019 to 2021, supported and enabled by the IT Strategic Reserve previously created by the AWRI Board. The plan includes such initiatives as the upgrade of the entire core network infrastructure, increasing security by implementing multi-factor authentication, improving remote access procedures and real-time monitoring, local back-ups of cloud data and physical/virtual server upgrades. Such enhancements continue to add considerable value to almost every aspect of the AWRI’s operations.