When it comes to the greats of Australian wine, Penfolds Grange stands above all others. In late September, the acclaimed winemaker behind this iconic wine – Peter Gago AC – was recognised for his commitment and service to the international wine industry when he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UniSA.
As Chief Winemaker of Penfolds Winery, Gago is custodian of a rich winemaking tradition that goes back more than 170 years. Joining Penfolds in 1989 he initially crafted sparkling wines before moving to reds as Penfolds Red Wine Oenologist.
His natural affinity for winemaking saw him rise to become the fourth ever Chief Winemaker for Penfolds in 2002.
Now at the helm of Penfolds' undeniable success, Gago oversees the entire Penfolds collection while also acting as their palate, team leader, brand ambassador, educator and spokesman.
No stranger to awards, Gago was the first Australian wine industry figure to receive the Companion of the Order of Australia, for his ‘eminent service to the wine industry’ at the 2017 Queen’s Birthday honours in Australia. Recipient of multiple winemaker of the year awards, he was also named the inaugural South Australia Great Wine Capitals Global Ambassador in 2017.
UniSA Vice Chancellor Professor David Lloyd says the Honorary Doctorate acknowledges Gago’s enduring commitment and significant contribution to Australian winemaking.
“Across a career spanning nearly 30 years, Peter Gago has demonstrated a true passion for the art of winemaking,” Prof Lloyd says.
“His dedication, creativity, ingenuity have seen him drive the profile and status of Australian fine wines to new heights, working tirelessly to position Adelaide and South Australia as one of the leading wine regions in the world.
“Peter epitomises success; he knows his business, he innovates, he values his people and takes pride in his team, and he delivers – every time – and we are extremely proud to honour him.”
Also awarded an Honorary Doctor during the September graduation ceremonies was former Federal Minister, Greg Combet.
Before entering federal parliament Combet worked as a miner and then in the trade union movement, starting as a trades assistant, before rising to the role of Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
“I am very grateful for this honour,” Combet says.
“Throughout my working life I have been a fighter for social justice, and for this to be recognised by the University of South Australia is immensely gratifying.”
Combet studied engineering and economics at universities in NSW before working as a project officer in the NSW Tenants’ Union.
As an advocate for the rights of workers and for worker safety, Combet was involved in important national campaigns including the Your Rights at Work aimed at maintaining working conditions, compensation for workers affected by asbestosis and protection for workers retrenched from Australia’s iconic Ansett Airlines when the airline folded.
Prof Lloyd says Combet has always worked hard to advocate for the kinds of change that makes societies stronger.
“It might be fighting against industrial injustices, or guiding the ethical operation of a bank, in both situations Greg brings his intelligence, his strategic thinking and his compassion to build a better campaign or a fairer institution,” Prof Lloyd says.
“He is an example of commitment to ideals and principles and of dedication to public service and his career proves that education and experience are powerful tools in all of life’s challenges.
“Across his career in industrial relations and politics, Greg has proved his credentials as a complex problem solver, strategist and leader; and since his retirement from politics he has continued to employ his skills to benefit others.”
Combet was named Patron of the Black Lung Victims Group in 2016 – a support group for victims of Black Lung disease which plagues coal industry workers.
Today, he is Deputy Chair of IFM Investors, Deputy Chair of Industry Super Australia and a Director on the Board of ME Bank. He also Chairs the Victorian Government’s Independent Expert Panel on Interim Emissions Reduction.
The two Honorary Doctorates were awarded during the September 19 and 20 graduation ceremonies in which more than 1700 students, including 53 PhDs, graduated from UniSA.