Bob Kennedy's work supporting research, businesses and viticulture recognises with an AM

A successful business career followed by an extremely active post-business career in viticulture and supporting medical research and education in the Hunter has been recognised with Robert (Bob) Kennedy being awarded an AM in today's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Bob Kennedy in his Beyond Broke Vineyard, Fordwich, following a hailstorm that caused extensive damage to vines and fruit December 2009. Picture Anita Jones

Bob Kennedy in his Beyond Broke Vineyard, Fordwich, following a hailstorm that caused extensive damage to vines and fruit December 2009. Picture Anita Jones

Currently travelling overseas Mr Kennedy spoke to the Argus from London saying he was both proud and humbled by the award and wishing to acknowledge those who nominated him for such an honour.

He spoke first about his work with the Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) where he was chair for six years from 2007-20013. He and his wife Terry are also benefactors supporting a grant in their names for infertility research.

"It was quite a joy to manage the HMRI and it was a place where we wanted to make everyone better tomorrow than they are today," he said.

"The AM is a reflection of the work by a great many people in the organisations I have been involved with over the years."

Mr Kennedy was also chair of the Hunter Medical Research Institute Foundation from 2006-2007. Since 2014 he has been a member of the Governing Council of the University of Newcastle (UON) and is currently chair of the University's Controlled and Associated Entities Committee.

An economics graduate from ANU 'from 1984 to 2004, Mr Kennedy provided leadership and strategic business expertise to some of the world's largest companies including 11 years as CEO of Masterfoods Australia, growing the company's annual turnover from $50 million to $225 million' according to his UON Councillor biography.

He established his vineyard Beyond Broke at Fordwich in 1996 before retiring in 2004. Today he is chair of the Monarch Group that includes First Creek a contract wine making and bottling business in Pokolbin.

"Along with the Silkman family we are continuing to grow that business which last year bottled a million cases of wine,"he said.

He has also been an active member of both the Broke-Fordwich and Hunter Valley vineyard and tourism associations.

But it wasn't always clear sailing when it came to viticulture with the arrival of AGL in Broke and their plans to build 300 coal seam gas wells (CSG) in the district.

This lead to Mr Kennedy becoming a director of the Hunter Valley Protection Alliance which campaigned strongly against the CSG development arguing it would ruin the district and its associated grape and tourism industries.

Mr Kennedy said the establishment of protection areas around Broke saved the district from CSG and eventually led to AGL selling their properties and leaving the Broke in 2015.

Although mining continues to edge ever closer and in his case actually under his home in the vineyard.

But he spoke positively about his relations with mining giant Glencore who operated the underground mine Beltana that longwalled under the house in 2006.

"They were planning to come back in 2022 but that may not happen now," he said.

To handle the underground mining which resulted in subsidence of 1.8 metres his house was built on brick piers in a steel cradle and he said the house remained 'steady'.

He wanted to encourage more people to become involved in their community saying the more you put back the better your community will be.

"Being involved in our community has been wonderful and that commitment begun back when I worked with Mars because that company encouraged that aspect in our work," he said.