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Collective action targets gambling harm

Spend your time in new ways

Campaign image from ‘Spend your time in new ways’ encouraging locals to try new activities as part of the All-In initiative.

By Lisa Clausen

An innovative project tackling gambling harm in central Victoria forged a diverse coalition for positive change across the community.

Created in response to significant gambling losses and associated harm in Ballarat, the All-In: Reducing the Harms from Gambling initiative was led by Ballarat Community Health (BCH) from October 2019 to June 2022, with funding from the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation.

The project invited businesses, organisations, sporting clubs and community groups to work alongside BCH and Ballarat Child and Family Services and commit to actions within their networks to raise awareness of gambling harm, reduce stigma, encourage help seeking and promote alternative recreation.

Initially aiming to recruit 10 members, an enthusiastic community response saw 16 partners join the project, including the Ballarat African Association, Bendigo Bank, several Neighbourhood Houses, not-for-profit organisation Sports Central, and BGT Jobs and Training.

Impact of collective action

Kate Diamond-Keith, BCH’s former gambling harm prevention project worker, says the use of a collective impact model to harness the energy of a diverse range of committed stakeholders was central to the project’s success.

‘Everyone in Ballarat has a role to play in preventing gambling harm,’ says Kate.

‘The idea is that the more organisations we have on board in addressing this issue, the more likely it is that change in our community will happen.’

‘It’s great to see so many organisations working towards one goal.’
All-In participant

Four goals drove the project:

  • reducing stigma related to gambling harm and nurturing a compassionate response to people experiencing gambling harm
  • improving awareness of gambling harm and its devastating effects on people who gamble and those around them
  • promoting alternative recreational activities
  • emphasising the value of seeking help and highlighting local support services.

How to embed change

To achieve change, partners were supported to take meaningful action, such as including gambling harm information in staff induction programs, ensuring work-related social events avoided gambling venues, and blocking access to gambling websites from work computers.

An All-In toolkit comprised an Action Guide and 10 Key Questions to help partners assess how well they understood gambling harm and how ready they were to respond to it.

Partners helped design social media and public awareness messages that were used throughout COVID-19 restrictions to promote the project’s Spend your time in new ways campaign, reaching more than 27,000 people.

Stakeholder forums, Three Sides of the Coin events, Communities of Practice sessions and the close involvement of Lynda Genser, a member of the Foundation’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee, were integral to the project’s success.

‘Such a helpful and important forum.’
All-In participant

With an estimated reach of 720 employees and more than 23,500 clients and members, the initiative achieved a range of wins:

  • an increase in member organisations with a gambling harm prevention policy from 25 per cent at the beginning of the project to 63 per cent by the end
  • 83 per cent of participants said they knew more about the signs of gambling harm
  • 79 per cent said they better understood where and how to find help for gambling harm
  • 100 per cent said they would share and use what they’d learned from the project.

Champions of change

At Ballarat’s BGT Jobs and Training, the project’s effect is clearly evident – from gambling harm information on noticeboards to speakers from Gambler’s Help at staff meetings, to a new gambling harm policy and a ban on using gambling venues for work events.

‘We identified that there was a gap in our knowledge and understanding of the consequences of gambling and as we’re a community-focused organisation we were aware that we needed to make a lot of changes,’ says management assistant Tarryn Neil.

‘It’s been really interesting getting all this information and I feel proud that BGT has started this journey. It will be great to learn more and move forward with this.’

‘Stakeholders are champions of change within their sphere of influence and are actively promoting the key messages of the project and engaging organisations to take action.’
All-In final report.

While the project has concluded, the community believes the positive outcomes will endure.

‘What this project helped us do is think about an organisational approach to gambling harm,’ says Major Craig Farrell from Delacombe Salvation Army.

‘So this is a national project now… We are looking at gambling harm policy [and] we have an online module for staff now around gambling harm.’

All-In’s governance group continues to work on advocacy, while the project itself leaves a legacy of vital resources for future projects and campaigns.

You can read more about the program’s success and access all the resources here.

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