Edition #17: October 2019

Photo of a large group of young Karen people standing in a wide row on a large expanse of sand, smiling and waving at the camera, some posing and jumping, a middle-aged woman standing and on the end at the right, also smiling and waving, hills and blue sky behind.
Photo of a large group of young Karen people standing in a wide row on a large expanse of sand, smiling and waving at the camera, some posing and jumping, a middle-aged woman standing and on the end at the right, also smiling and waving, hills and blue sky behind.
Bendigo’s Karen Youth Club, photo: Bendigo Community Health Services

New projects to prevent gambling harm across the state

Kaye Graves has much gratitude and enthusiasm for what refugee communities bring to the City of Greater Bendigo. ‘They contribute such strength, warmth, faith and culture,’ she says. ‘They enrich our community.’

Kaye is team leader of cultural diversity at Bendigo Community Health Services, a not-for-profit provider of health and wellbeing services, including refugee settlement programs. In Bendigo, there are more than 2500 Karen community members, as well as many people who have fled Afghanistan and South Sudan. Kaye says they know anecdotally that gambling harm is occurring within these communities, and that people are not accessing Gambler’s Help services. The risk of harm is compounded by the stress and complex emotions involved in humanitarian settlement.

‘Due to no fault of their own, they’ve lived a life of deprivation,’ says Kaye. ‘For some people, it’s the first time they’ll handle money, it’s the first time they’ll see an iPad, the first time the kids get a soccer uniform on, and the first time they see sponsorship that supports soccer.’

‘For some people, it’s the first time they’ll handle money, it’s the first time they’ll see an iPad.’

Kaye Graves, Bendigo Community Health Services

With local refugee communities also wanting to understand why family and friends are gambling and what they can do about it, Kaye and her team resolved to work with them on a project to identify what gambling issues look like, to co-design resources in Karen and Dari, and to increase the capacity of Gambler’s Help services to support refugee communities. ‘We wanted to develop a targeted, tailored, bottom-up approach, working with community.’

Kaye was delighted at the announcement last Thursday, during Gambling Harm Awareness Week 2019, that the project is one of 14 across the state to be awarded funding by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s Prevention Partnerships Program.

Creating positive change in local communities

The Foundation’s Prevention Partnerships Program has been operating since 2014, funding diverse organisations to run projects to prevent and reduce gambling harm in local communities and among at-risk groups. The projects help build social connection and resilience, break down the stigma associated with gambling harm and encourage people affected to seek support.

The Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Marlene Kairouz, announced the funding for the 14 new projects at a Gambling Harm Awareness Week workshop in Bendigo. The recipients include six regional-based organisations, eight that work with refugee and migrant communities, and one Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation. They will share close to $2 million to deliver their projects over 2019–2021.

Minister Kariouz said, ‘These grants will help create positive change in local communities by providing support and advice to individuals who are vulnerable to gambling harm.’

Safer social activities for older people

Older people are particularly vulnerable to gambling harm, and Wyndham City Council also received funding last week, for a project to reduce the risks of harm among its older residents.

The project came about after the council was involved in a Foundation-funded study conducted by Deakin University looking at what shapes the pathways to gaming venues for older adults. The council organised focus groups of older residents to talk to the researchers about why they visit pokies venues, what they like about them, what they get out of them, what they know about pokies and how important they are to why they visit.

Lucy Midolo, Wyndham City Council’s acting coordinator of community wellbeing and inclusion, says the preliminary findings of the research prompted their project. ‘The feedback older people provided was that they went to gaming venues, not to gamble necessarily, but to participate in other social activities. But as a result, they were spending some time in the gaming room and losing money.’

The project will challenge the notion of pokies venues being the ‘default’ location for many social inclusion activities for older people and build the capacity of activity providers to understand gambling harm, particularly the impact on participants, volunteers and staff.

The project will challenge the notion of pokies venues being the ‘default’ location for many social inclusion activities for older people.

Lucy says it will build on the work of a previous prevention project funded by the Foundation, in which Carers Victoria and HealthWest increased awareness among older people in Melbourne’s north-west of the risks of gambling and the alternative recreation opportunities available. The Wyndham project will deliver a training package to social support service providers, volunteers, seniors’ groups, council staff, retirement villages and leisure support officers at nursing homes.

‘It’s about people making more informed choices when they’re planning their activities,’ says Lucy. And if they still decide to go ahead, there’ll be content about how to make activities safer if they take place in those settings.’

Making a difference in the long term

Photo of two smiling middle-aged women standing on a city pavement, one with dark hair pulled back, wearing a blue and white dress and black cardigan, the other with a blonde bob and black coatLucy Midolo (left) and Kaye Graves, photo: Paul Jeffers

A key purpose of the Prevention Partnerships Program is to test new ideas and build evidence for effective practice in preventing gambling harm. An important aspect of this is the sustainability of ideas beyond the life of a project and developing models that can be replicated in other settings.  This new suite of projects looks set to deliver on both counts.

For example, Kaye says the Bendigo project ‘will develop a replicable model for other host communities to use’. Another legacy will be inserting awareness-raising activities within refugee settlement programs. Yet another will be embedding knowledge and practice in mainstream organisations that interact with refugee communities, including employment agencies, health service providers, mental health services, youth services, and educational settings.

Kaye says, ‘I feel we have an absolute duty of care to build this program for our people of refugee background so we can give them the best settlement outcomes and opportunities in Australia and Bendigo. I’m absolutely determined about this.’

Find out more about the 14 projects: Prevention Partnerships Program 2019–2021.

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