Counsellor Kim Vu, photo: Paul Jeffers
People experiencing problems with gambling, including those affected by someone else's gambling, often need support from a specialist counsellor to work through the issues.
In a relationship requiring sensitivity and attentive listening, it is vital that language is not a barrier.
Kim Vu, a counsellor with the Australian Vietnamese Women's Association's Gambling Counselling Program, knows the importance of speaking a client's language and understanding their culture.
'Vietnamese people are not familiar with the concept of counselling and are accustomed to solving problems on their own,' says Kim. 'This can sometimes lead to gambling or alcohol or drug use as a means to forget rather than deal with issues.'
Supporting Vietnamese Victorians affected by gambling
The Australian Vietnamese Women's Association provides face-to-face, telephone and email counselling in Vietnamese for gamblers and their families.
A high proportion of their clients are in the justice system. Kim says the number of Vietnamese women in prison in Victoria has sky-rocketed since the opening of Crown Casino in 1994.
'They get involved in gambling to deal with sadness and depression. This is quite common in the Vietnamese community,' she says. 'Those who are seriously addicted to gambling can get into a lot of debt with loan sharks, which can lead them to crime.'
'Vietnamese people are not familiar with the concept of counselling and are accustomed to solving problems on their own.'
As well as offering counselling, the Australian Vietnamese Women's Association runs responsible gambling education programs in prisons and in the Vietnamese community. This includes organising healthy social activities, such as family events, group outings and classes, including ballroom dancing and flower arranging lessons.
Kim says the community is becoming more aware of gambling issues and the importance of wellbeing and self-care.
New language services make a difference
The Australian Vietnamese Women's Association is one of six organisations funded by the foundation to provide in-language Gambler's Help services. The following organisations offer culturally appropriate counselling and education in Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese:
- Arabic Welfare
- Victorian Arabic Social Services
- Chinese Gambling Concern
- Springvale Indo-Chinese Mutual Assistance Association
- Australian Vietnamese Women's Association
- Multicultural Centre for Women's Health.
We started funding these services on 1 July 2014 and all six organisations report uptake has been extremely positive.
Hoda Nahal, a counsellor with Arabic Welfare, says the in-language service has become a trusted resource for the Arabic community.
'With one family, we are working with three generations. Ameen, who came to us in a distressed state last year, and has now stopped gambling, recently introduced his 20-year-old son to the service. While continuing to support Ameen, we are helping his son with his own betting issues, as well as Ameen's 70-year-old mother, who finds it difficult to cope with her grandson's gambling.'
Sharing the challenges, the triumphs and everything in-between
Responsible Gambling Awareness Week 2015 is a good time to reflect on the first year of these in-language services and to explore the issues around promoting responsible gambling within culturally and linguistically diverse communities.
On Thursday 15 October, from 10 am to 12.30 pm, the six organisations will come together to present their work, including case studies about gambling harm in their communities. A facilitated discussion will follow about promoting responsible gambling and how to reduce harm.
Research shows that language and cultural differences can influence gambling behaviour and may prevent people with problems from getting help or knowing about the benefits of counselling. Sharing challenges, insights and ideas from the frontline will assist our practitioners in their work to remove barriers and help their communities.
To find about more about the forum and other special events held for Victoria's culturally and linguistically diverse communities, visit the Responsible Gambling Awareness Week 2015 website.