Edition #7: Cultural Diversity Week

A man in a room, seen from behind and in deep conversation with a woman who is listening to him with a caring expression
A man in a room, seen from behind and in deep conversation with a woman who is listening to him with a caring expression
Nabil with his Gambler's Help counsellor, Hoda Nahal, photo: Ross Bird

After a fall at work and losing my job, the pokies became an escape

Read Nabil’s story in Arabic: بعد سقوطي في مكان العمل وفقداني لوظيفتي، أصبحت ماكينات البوكر هي المَهرَب

I came here from Lebanon in 1985. There was war in Lebanon, and my sister was in Sydney, so I applied to come to Australia and was approved.

I’m 56 years old. I’m not working now, as I have problems with my health, including depression. I used to work in security and before that I was a tram conductor.

When I worked on the trams, I had a serious accident at the depot. I fell and hit my head and an ambulance was called.

About four months later, tram conductors were replaced with machines and I lost my job. They sent me home to a wife and five kids.

The worst way to forget my problems

I started going to the pokies – at the casino as well as venues closer to where I live. I went by myself most of the time. I’d never thought about gambling before, but when you’ve got problems with your health, it helps you get out and escape. That’s how you get trapped.

When you’re gambling, you don’t notice the effect it has on others. You don’t see anything except yourself playing. You don’t think about your bills, it’s whatever you can put in the machine. My family and friends knew what was happening because I was asking them for money. People think you can stop, but it’s not like that.

When you’ve got problems with your health, it helps you get out and escape.

The problem with gambling is that when you win, you want more. And when you lose, you want to get your money back. So you lose either way. People didn’t make these machines to give you money. They made them to take money from you. That’s the first thing you need to know.

My marriage broke up. I’ve been apart from my family for nearly 10 years. I see my kids, but I live by myself. I don’t see my ex-wife anymore.

People didn’t make these machines to give you money. They made them to take money from you.

Getting help to turn things around

About five years ago, I went to an organisation in my local area to get help for financial problems. I was out of work and having trouble buying food and clothes, and paying for prescriptions and car repairs, things like that. They sent me to Arabic Welfare.

My Gambler’s Help counsellor at Arabic Welfare has helped me get back on track and to find the right people, the right support groups. She also helped me put myself on the self-exclusion program. I’ve self-excluded from a number of venues, including places near my house.

When you have money in your pocket, and when you don’t play, you win that money.

I’m close to my kids – I have three girls and two boys. They know I’m getting help. I tell my sons, I tell my daughters, I tell everyone: Don’t touch it, don’t even think about it. When you have money in your pocket, and when you don’t play, you win that money. Just say, ‘I have $500 in my pocket, I win $500 today’, and turn around and go home. It’s that easy.

A word from Nabil’s counsellor, Hoda Nahal

I’m really impressed with Nabil’s progress. For the last three years, Nabil hasn’t gambled or gone to venues. I see him as a really good role model. I’ve recently invited him to be part of a therapeutic group, not just for his own benefit, but because others can really benefit from his experience.

He struggled at the beginning and sometimes relapsed, but we worked out how the relapses happened and strategies he could use to prevent them. He is really committed and motivated. As a counsellor, things like that help us to continue.

Read more about how Hoda Nahal works to help Arabic-speaking people affected by gambling harm.

How to get help

If you are experiencing problems with gambling, or someone close to you has a problem, call Gambler's Help on 1800 858 858. You can ask to be referred to someone who can help you in Arabic.

You can telephone Arabic Welfare on (03) 9380 9346 (Brunswick) or (03) 9309 0249 (Broadmeadows) or email qoweh@arabicwelfare.org.au to talk to someone in Arabic.

You can also telephone Victorian Arabic Social Services on (03) 9359 2861 or email mail@vass.org.au to talk to someone in Arabic.

To find out more about how to get help in your language, go to gamblershelp.com.au.

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