Alumni Update

2012 Rural Woman of the Year rules male dominated industry

Mary Retallack
Viticulturist/ Managing Director, Retallack Viticulture

Bachelor of Education, 2000
Bachelor of Applied Science (Conservation and Park Management), 1994


Born into a family of viticulturists, Mary Retallack has carved her own path in the wine industry to become an award-winning business owner and a champion for women in the male-dominated agriculture industry.

Winner of the Australian RIRDC National and SA Rural Woman of the Year in 2012, and the Emerald Grain 100 Women in Australian Agribusiness, Mary is a passionate advocate for women in the wine industry.

Mary grew up on a ‘fruit block’ in the Riverland and comes from a family of third generation viticulturists. She left home at the age of 16 to study a Bachelor of Applied Science (Conservation and Park Management) at the University of South Australia. After completing her degree she continued into post graduate studies in Natural Resource Management.

“I fell back into the wine sector as the vineyard planting boom took off and over the past two decades I’ve worked in Australia and overseas as a viticultural lecturer, project leader, extension specialist, vineyard manager, in cellar operations, and as a viticulture consultant and researcher.”

“During this time I also completed a Bachelor of Education, Graduate Diploma in Viticulture and participated in the Wine Industry’s Future Leaders program and the Australian Rural Leadership program,” says Mary.

In 2009 she started her own business, Retallack Viticulture, which offers a broad range of viticultural consulting services.

Her advice to other women making their way in the industry is to focus their efforts on the things they are most passionate about.

“Don’t overcommit and maintain healthy boundaries between work and personal life. Take time out to reflect and recharge. Look after your health as it underpins everything you do. Be brave and persistent, generous and kind. Put your ‘hand up’ for opportunities. Don’t take no for an answer if you know there is a better way or if you can create one!”

Mary says that winning the awards has opened doors to a range of opportunities. She currently sits on the ‘Women of the Vine’ Global Symposium Advisory board, which is dedicated to supporting and advancing women employed in the wine industry around the world.

She also a participant in Primary Industries and Resources South Australia (PIRSA) ‘Women Influencing Agribusiness and Regions’, a government initiative which allows her to encourage and mentor other women into the industry by highlighting rewarding career pathways and opportunities for development.

“I also actively work behind the scenes as a mentor and am working on an initiative to encourage not only more women into the wine sector but also the next generation,” says Mary.

She says that fantastic opportunities exist for women in agriculture.

“However, in the wine community viticulturists and winemakers each make up less than 10% of the team. It is important for us to not only be seen and heard, but to be actively contributing at the decision making table. There is an opportunity to encourage more women into agriculture roles, to demonstrate career paths and ensure women have equal access to all aspects of agriculture. This includes ensuring workplaces are family friendly and flexibility is offered to support those with young families, so we don’t lose women who are at the top of their game.”

“Gender diversity is a financial imperative to all agribusinesses and it is well recognised that diversity also helps facilitate better decision-making,” she says.

Mary currently sits on the Australian Grape and Wine Authority (Wine Australia) board, and is undertaking her a PhD researching beneficial companion plantings of native insectary plants in vineyards.

Mary advises recent graduates to “find a range of mentors who can offer support and share their networks and most importantly ‘sponsors’ who can actively help open doors to opportunities”.

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