AUSTRALIAN Wool Innovation’s board has endorsed its nomination committee recommendation of support for three director candidates in the 2023 election.
And four years after well-known New South Wales Merino stud owner and former AWI chair Wal Merriman was ousted in the 2019 election after serving for 15 years, Merino breeder influence on the AWI board is set to be rejuvenated if the preferred candidates are successful.
AWI’s board nomination committee, that includes two retiring board members – David Webster from Western Australia and James Morgan from South Australia — and the AWI board, have picked two breeders in their top three preferred candidates, one each from WA and SA.
AWI’s board nomination committee has decided to recommend South Australian Merino stud breeder George Millington, Western Australian grower and Merino breeder Neil Jackson and AgriDigital chief executive officer Emma Weston to shareholders.
Former WoolProducers Australia board members — WA grower Steve McGuire, and New South Wales grower and former WPA chairman Edward Storey — did not receive the recommendation of the BNC nor of the AWI board, and were accorded abbreviated descriptions in the media release circulated this week.
Sheep Central asked BNC chair Julie Cox and AWI chairman Jock Laurie if the Merino breeder background and state of origin status of the candidates played any part in the BNC or AWI board decision-making process around candidates.
An AWI spokesman said the BNC made assessments on the suitability of each candidate after interviewing them all.
“AWI chairman Jock Laurie was not a member of the committee so he cannot comment on how the BNC made their recommendation,” the spokesman said, and added: “The AWI board accepted the BNC recommendation.”
Mr Millington and Mr Jackson qualified as nominees by acquiring the signatures of more than 99 eligible shareholders. Ms Weston is a skills-based candidate identified by the BNC. She was identified as a preferred candidate after the BNC also undertook an executive search for specific skills identified to supplement existing skills on the board; namely, digitisation, supply chain, corporate governance and international exposure.
Three will contribute the most suitable blend of expertise and experience
A media release from Ms Cox said the committee believes the preferred three director candidates will contribute the most suitable blend of expertise and experience to the board.
The BNC releases said the committee is confident that the three nominees recommended, if elected, will bring to the AWI board a high-level of complementary and relevant skills, commercial pragmatism and insight into the needs and opportunities for the Australian wool industry.
The BNC believes that the three recommended candidates would best ensure that the board collectively has the appropriate and necessary balance of skills required by AWI. The BNC also considers the recommended candidates will deliver to the board a diverse composition of backgrounds and outlook to support the company to fulfil its responsibilities to shareholders and stakeholders.
The BNC said it received applications from four persons nominated by more than 99 eligible voters, all of whom are wool growers with a diverse range of skills and experience relevant to the wool industry.
The AWI board has resolved that open proxies directed to the chair will be voted in favour of Mr Millington, Mr Jackson and Ms Weston.
The BNC said AWI shareholders are not bound by the recommendations of the BNC and will be entitled to vote for any of the five director candidates who are standing for election to the board at the annual general meeting on 17 November.
What the BNC said its preferred 2023 candidates
George Millington is the director and owner of Collinsville Stud Merinos for the last nine years, has overseen its re- energisation into a thriving enterprise, unifying the iconic Merino studs of Collinsville and East Bungaree. Prior to owning Collinsville and East Bungaree, George gained a Bachelor of Economics and worked in the finance industry. He was then involved in the coffee industry where he built and expanded a wholesale coffee importation and roasting business (Monjava Coffee), which was eventually sold to San Remo Pasta. George then purchased a logistics company (APD Parcel Delivery) and is still involved in the management of this company today.
George’s commitment to bridging tradition and innovation, strategic insights and business experience, position him as an advocate for wool growers on the Australian Wool Innovation board of directors – offering a fresh perspective gained from outside the wool industry to help guide it into a prosperous and sustainable era.
Neil Jackson is a 3rd generation farmer with 38 years hands-on experience and extensive industry involvement at government and grass roots level. During this time he has also increased farm area fourfold and production fivefold through hard work, dedication and best business practices to now be one of the larger wool growers in the Great Southern of WA. Neil is acutely aware of the many on-farm challenges facing wool growers today, hence he is excited at the opportunity to advocate strongly for wool growers as an AWI board member.
Emma Weston is the CEO of AgriDigital and a leader in digital innovation, she holds a MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management, a LL.B. (Hons) and B.A. from the University of Melbourne, and has held a number of board and advisory roles in the digital, fintech and agtech sectors.
Emma was recently awarded the Pearcey Foundation 2023 NSW ICT Entrepreneur of the Year in recognition of her achievements in innovation in agtech. Prior to founding AgriDigital in 2015, Emma started her career as a lawyer before moving into various executive roles across the agricultural supply chain – her career focus over the past 25 years.
Emma lives and farms with her family in Central West New South Wales and is passionate about ensuring rural communities are sustainable, that agriculture is a valued career choice and to build connection between consumers and their food and fibre.
What the BNC said about “the other 2023 candidates”
Steve McGuire is a wool grower from Kojonup, Western Australia, after graduating with a Bachelor of Business (Agriculture) and a Diploma in Farm Management from Curtin University he returned to the family farm where has managed a mixed cropping/sheep operation for 30 years and developed a passion for sheep and wool research and development. Steve through his involvement with WAFarmers Livestock Council, was appointed to the board of WoolProducers Australia where he served for six years until February 2023. With his time on a national board of woolgrowers, as well as travel to China in 2017, he has gained a wide understanding of not just the wool producing industry across Australia, but the upstream systems of handling, testing, processing and marketing of Australian wool.
Edward Storey is a wool grower and experienced company director from the southern tablelands of NSW. As well as a passion for growing the world’s most sustainable fibre, he will bring over 20 years of community, philanthropic and agribusiness leadership to the AWI board.
The 2023 BNC membership
The BNC’s members under independent chair Julie Cox are James Morgan, retiring AWI director and South Australian grower; David Webster, retiring AWI director and WA grower; NSW wool grower Michael Field and; Michael Thomas, independent member from an international executive search firm Heidrick and Struggles.
AWI will hold its 2019 Annual General Meeting at 10 am (AEDT) on Friday 17 November 2021 at the Swissotel Sydney 68 Market Street, Sydney, NSW 2000 and online. More details related to the election of directors, together with the nomination form, consent to nomination form and AWI’s rules and procedures governing the election of directors are available from AWI’s website at www.wool.com/agm.