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How a drop of Gundog Estate Shiraz may help ease youth homelessness

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If you needed another excuse to enjoy a glass of red wine – this may be it.

Gundog Estate has created a special bottling of its 2019 Hunter Shiraz, with profits going directly to those ‘doing it tough’ in the Hunter.

By partnering with Path 2 Change, the boutique Pokolbin winery has committed to donating 100% of its profits from the sale of the classic drop to supporting disadvantaged and homeless youth within the region.

The wine, branded, ‘The Lived Experience,’ has been touted as ‘the wine that has the power to change lives’.

It’s label alone tells a powerful story.

An assortment of black and white hand-drawn images, the label is the handiwork of Path 2 Change’s Abby* who has worked with homeless youth for 15 years.

The brief was to bring to life part of their story or their goals for the future.

“I’ve seen the absolute tragedy and trauma caused by family breakdown from physical and emotional abuse, domestic violence, drug abuse and poverty,” she said.

“However, I have also seen the resilience and courage of young people towards independence and choosing a better future for themselves. 

“I also experienced homelessness as a young teenager and again as a single mum with my two young children. 

“This lived experience has helped me understand their challenges as well as their triumphs. 

“If you look closely at the picture, you will discover many symbols of the journey of our young people from broken families and relationships, struggle and to support, freedom and a future.”

Gundog Estate winemaker Matt Burton, who has been working with Path 2 Change since September 2018, says he has seen the need for support grow significantly.

“The past two years have been tough for us and most others in the region. However, through our work with Path 2 Change, we know that disadvantaged and homeless youth are doing it even tougher. 

“Their needs have escalated significantly, and Path 2 Change now has more clients on their books than ever before.”

The latest data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (June 2021) paints a sobering picture of the impact COVID-19 has had on youth employment in the region. 

The youth unemployment rate in the Hunter Valley region is 14.7% and, in the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie area it is 15.6%.

Path 2 Change CEO Jennifer O’Sullivan says the need to help the Hunter’s young people is at its highest.

“We have seen more young people being forced into homelessness due to family breakdown because of COVID, and the lockdowns. Many families have lost their incomes, causing added stress resulting in an increase in domestic violence, and drug and alcohol abuse.

“Young people are also experiencing increased mental health challenges and are at a higher risk of suicide due to isolation, in addition to already being disconnected from family and social supports. 

“Our young people are requiring more support than ever during this time.”

As part of its sustainability program, Gundog Estate has been working with Path 2 Change for the past three years, through fundraising at wine club events, and at Gundog’s two cellar doors.

“We share in Path 2 Change’s philosophy; the best way to break the cycle of youth homelessness is through education and employment. And so, via fundraising and a hospitality work experience program at our Hunter cellar door, we have supported Path 2 Change in getting young people into safe accommodation, education, training programs, and crucially – jobs,” Mr Burton said.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic crippled our fundraising and work experience activities at a crucial time. So, we wanted to come up with a creative way to support their clients, especially once we heard just how hard they were doing.”

A little over 1000 bottles of the 2019 The Lived Experience Shiraz have been produced, with the wine available for sale at $35 a bottle and in six packs for $210. Gundog Estate will donate 100% of profits to Path 2 Change which will use these funds supporting local disadvantaged and homeless youth.

The Gundog Lived Experience 2019 Hunter Shiraz is now available through Gundog Estate’s website and cellar doors – https://www.gundogestate.com.au/

*Abby requested Newcastle Weekly not use her real name in the article.

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