(L to R): Glenn Whitling, Belinda Stevens and Darren Harris from Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation in Wodonga, photo: Mark Jesser
Last December, the Cultural Greetings Christmas Festival in Albury saw members of the local Aboriginal, Bhutanese, Croatian, Iranian, Filipino, Indian and African communities get together to share their cultures and food.
Indigenous food took a starring role, with nine Wodonga TAFE hospitality students preparing a feast based on traditional fare, including kangaroo sliders, barramundi and crocodile sticks with rainforest salad and native pies.
This was the fifth year of the festival, founded by the Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation in Wodonga. The event focuses on togetherness, and includes messages and information from local health services, such as Gambler’s Help.
‘All of our community love having Gambler’s Help there,’ says Stephanie Suter, access and support worker at Mungabareena. ‘Especially when they are there with Elders who might otherwise be sitting on the slots instead of coming to a community event.’
Several organisations are now involved in the festival, which Stephanie says has been run with ‘minimal funds and yet has grown each year’. She is keen for it to continue to expand and thrive – and also to serve as an example to other organisations that might wish to stage something similar in their own communities.
Keeping the party going
Earlier this year, Stephanie wrote an application for funding through the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s Prevention Grants for Regional and Rural Victoria program. The program is an initiative to support regional organisations to prevent gambling harm in their communities.
Stephanie’s application, on behalf of Mungabareena, was successfully awarded $50,000, from a pool of $250,000 shared among five projects. Mungabareena will use the grant to develop a ‘Koori event kit’ – a resource for planning and running events and building partnerships to improve community health and wellbeing, including raising awareness of the risks of gambling, and of Gambler’s Help services. The content will place a strong emphasis on cultural and social connection.
‘They can take it back to their organisations and will be able to run their own festivals.’
Stephanie Suter, Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation
Stephanie says that, to enhance sustainability of the project, every member of the festival committee will receive training on how to use the kit to create and manage events. ‘They can take it back to their organisations and will be able to run their own festivals.’
A focus on young people
The other projects that have been awarded grants reflect community concern about the impact of gambling harm on particular groups, including young people.
Mallee Sports Assembly will engage with sporting clubs in the Northern Mallee region to investigate the prevalence of gambling in club environments and develop initiatives to prevent and reduce gambling harm. They will draw on the strong community spirit of rural sporting clubs to raise awareness of gambling harm and reach groups at particular risk, including young people and Aboriginal communities.
Bendigo Family and Financial Services will trial an education program in the Bendigo region for people under 25 who receive Centrelink Newstart or Youth Allowance to learn about the normalisation of gambling through gaming. This is an important project because gaming is generally defined by skill-based play, rather than games of chance (the predominant nature of gambling), and has therefore been unregulated under most gambling laws.
South Gippsland Shire Council will run ‘Community champions go gambling free’, a project working with the rural communities of Mirboo North and Leongatha to develop policies and activities to reduce harm from pokies and other forms of gambling.
Bethany Community Support will work with people aged 15–25 in Hamilton, Warrnambool and Geelong through their project ‘A young person’s message’, developing targeted, local information about gambling harm.
Sharlene Gillick, Bethany’s executive manager of south west, disability and therapeutic services, says, ‘This funding will give young people in rural and regional Victoria a voice when it comes to designing and producing local messages about gambling harm. Messaging developed for young people by young people is more likely to resonate, educate and reduce youth gambling harm’.
In announcing the grants, Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation Marlene Kairouz said, ‘Supporting local initiatives that inform people about the risks and provide alternatives to gambling can assist at-risk communities to build social connectedness as a way of protecting themselves from harm’.