Belinda Chambers has so much going on that she didn’t really need a new and challenging 15-month commitment, but the chance to be part of the Australian Rural Leadership Program (ARLP) came highly recommended.
Belinda Chambers will start the Wine Australia-supported Australian Rural Leadership Program in July.
Her friend and mentor Cathy McGowan, her local Federal MP, is herself an ARLP graduate and thought it would be a perfect fit for the energetic Chair of Winemakers of Rutherglen, who also runs Lake Moodemere Estate with her winemaker husband Michael.
And so, armed with a successful application and supported by Wine Australia, Belinda heads to the Kimberleys via Darwin on 24 July for a few challenging days of caving, abseiling and other outdoor pursuits. ‘There are some things that aren’t comfortable for me, but I’m pretty confident about the four-day hike because I’ve done a lot of hiking over the years’, she said.
The program will then take the 34 participants to Toowoomba, Indonesia, Canberra and another rural area for sessions that will be less physical but no less demanding.
‘They don’t give you many hints before you start so I’m unsure of exactly what I’m going to encounter. I know that it’s going to be something worthwhile for my own personal development, which will increase my ability to advocate for the wine sector and Rutherglen’, she said.
‘I do know sessions will focus on working with government and with the media, which I’m really looking forward to. I do quite a bit of this in my role as chair, but I always feel I have lots to learn.’
Belinda said she was particularly interested in a program that brought together people from a broad range of agricultural industries.
‘I pursued it because I was attracted by the diversity. We are in agriculture. Michael and I produce prime lambs, we have a vineyard and winery, we’re in tourism and we have accommodation. Our business ranges across several industries. I’m very interested in agriculture and have a Master of Agribusiness.’
She also has a Bachelor of Commerce, which she completed by commuting to Melbourne after she and Michael met (in the ski fields) and married. That made her an obvious choice as Treasurer of Winemakers of Rutherglen, a role she has filled for much of her decade on the Board.
‘I said I would keep being Treasurer on the proviso that I would never be the chair, but events happen,’ she said. ‘It’s been a huge role. We are a very strong and effective association with a lot of balls in the air. I’ve become a pretty consummate juggler, but I’m hoping the ARLP might have some tips on time management and becoming more discerning about how much you take on.’
Michael is the sixth generation of a Rutherglen wine sector family, and he and Belinda have slowly taken over the property over the past two decades, finishing with the unveiling of the homestead as their cellar door in 2013. Since then they’ve added a café and accommodation and taken on the equivalent of three extra full-time people to work with them.
‘We’ve grown quite a lot in three and a half years’, Belinda said. ‘We’ve doubled our wine production, are on the way to tripling it, and lamb is still a big part of what we do. We sell our lamb commercially and through our café and are preparing to sell branded lamb retail through the cellar door.’