Skip to Main Content

Partner News – February 2024

Partner News - banner 600x130

Making a real difference

Partner News Mailchimp feature 600x300 (1)

Retiring financial counsellor Colin Handreck

Passionate yet humble champion of the Victorian financial counselling sector Colin Handreck is retiring this month. In this edition of Partner News, the Foundation’s Dr Gabriele Byrne chats to Colin about how he became a financial counsellor and his legacy as team leader of the Gambler’s Help and Financial Counselling team at Child and Family Services (Cafs).

  • What attracted you to the financial counselling sector?

    My entry into the sector was via a financial counselling role funded by the Commonwealth government in 2009 as a response to the global financial crisis (GFC).

    The line in the job ad that caught my attention and strongly resonated with me was, ‘make a real difference!’

    At the time I had no understanding of what a financial counsellor role involved, but the ad assured me that successful applicants would be supported to complete the required diploma in addition to on-the-job training. Prior to becoming a financial counsellor, my career background had involved banking, insurance and small business. This proved valuable because applicants with career backgrounds like mine were encouraged to apply and use their experience to help provide financial counselling support for households and small business operators impacted by the GFC.

    At the time, many of the clients referred to me said that it was the first time they had reached out to a community sector organisation for help. During the first few years after the GFC, a common theme among new referrals was, ‘I never thought this would happen to me’.

  • How have you and your team made a real difference and what are you most proud of?

    Shortly after joining the sector, I successfully applied for the team leader Gambler’s Help and Financial Counselling position. Since then, it has been a privilege to act in this capacity and work alongside some of the finest, committed, and professional individuals who shared my goal to make a difference each day.

    Our integrated team at Cafs works collaboratively to deliver a Consumer Affairs Victoria-funded financial counselling program alongside the multi-stream Foundation-funded Gambler’s Help program. One of the most effective ways that has helped to bond and further integrate the team has been to invite each team member to share a recent example from their service delivery in our team meetings. My proudest moments have been during these meetings and hearing how one of our team has supported a significant and life-changing outcome for a client – which is a regular occurrence. I have also been delighted when we have achieved systemic improvements to policy, procedure or approaches that contribute to improved outcomes for clients.

    A key goal for our team is to provide our people with variety in their roles. For counsellors, this means being involved in communities of practice, working groups, network meetings, service promotion, and community engagement opportunities. In addition to providing a variation from their primary client-facing role, it gives team members an opportunity to share their expertise with the sector, broaden their own experience and ultimately improve outcomes for clients.

  • What positive changes have you seen in the financial counselling sector over the years?

    When I joined the financial counselling sector, debt waivers were less common and bankruptcy was a more prevalent way to resolve debt. Creditors that have adopted a leading-practice approach now recognise the benefits of waiving uncollectable debts and are increasingly likely to recognise their obligations to support customers experiencing hardship more effectively. There is still a long way to go on this issue, but I am pleased with the way the financial counselling sector has embraced professional standards and is increasingly trusted by creditors.

    I am also pleased that our sector has moved away from using terminology such as ‘problem gambling’ in favour of ‘gambling harm’ and ‘people experiencing gambling harm’. The updated language is less judgemental and supports a more solution-focused approach. I appreciate how the Gambler’s Help program adopts an integrated approach that includes elements of prevention, training, and research in addition to direct counselling options.

    Royal commissions and social change have each influenced the landscape however hardship and gambling harm is very much entrenched in our community.

    We have so much to be proud of and continue to achieve so much – both systemically and through supporting individual client outcomes. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to be part of the sector and to lead such an effective team that makes a real difference each day!

  • What’s next?

    I am now leaving the sector with plans to be repurposed. Future options include travel plans, additional time for family, volunteering roles and exploring some casual employment in order to maintain a balanced life. We’ll see how it all works out!

In this edition

PARTNER NEWS (600 × 40px) (4)

Foundation news

Transition of Foundation functions

In July 2023, the Victorian government announced its intention to transfer the functions of the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to other parts of government.

The Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS) has consulted with a range of Foundation partners and other stakeholders. This consultation process has led to the development of a new operational model for the Foundation’s functions. The new model has now been confirmed by Government, and will see:

  • client facing prevention, early intervention, treatment and support services, including the Gambler’s Help system, transferred to the Department of Health’s Mental Health and Wellbeing division
  • policy, research and evaluation functions, including the important work of the Foundation’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee, transferred to the Department of Justice and Community Safety. This will support cross-portfolio coordination and reporting
  • gambling harm public health awareness activities, including campaigns, transferred to the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC). As the regulator, the VGCCC’s enhanced focus on gambling harm and oversight of the Responsible Codes of Conduct for gambling licensees will align with future opportunities to prevent gambling harm and raise awareness of support available.

Following a process of detailed transition planning, we anticipate the arrangements to be in place by 30 June 2024.

Gambling recovery in real-life and real-time: A weekly check-in study

Deakin University is seeking participants for a confidential study using smartphone technology to track people in their real lives as they recover from issues with their gambling.

In particular, the research team, headed by Professor Nicki Dowling, is interested in identifying when recovery occurs, the warning signs of relapse and the factors associated with recovery. The team also plans to explore people’s views on the types of programs that might help with recovery.

To find out more about the Foundation-funded project, visit

If you’d like to help with recruiting for this study, please follow the Recovery Study’s Facebook page and share this post.

Community engagement news

Midsumma festival 600x300

Sean Kearney and Penny Christie (EACH) and Missy Ali (Banyule Community Health) attended the Midsumma Festival

Midsumma festival

Gambler's Help community engagement staff from EACH and Banyule Community Health attended the Midsumma Festival on 21 January to celebrate the diversity within the Australian LGBTQI+ community. It was a successful event with staff engaging with members of the community to talk about gambling and gambling harm.

The stall provided an opportunity for community members to learn about the risks of gambling by participating in fun and educational games, and to talk about how Victorians are affected. Many participants, including those who attended with children, showed genuine concern about the harm caused by gambling, particularly in the current economic climate.

Know the Score workshop

Country Education Partnership (CEP) has developed the Rural Youth Ambassadors program to provide young people within rural and remote communities the opportunity to develop their leadership skills.

Working with CEP, Cafs Gambler’s Help community engagement officers delivered a Be Ahead of the Game Know the Score workshop to 18 rural youth ambassadors. The ambassadors engaged in discussions about gambling and gambling harm and learnt about the support services in their local government areas across the Grampians catchment. They then shared the information within their school communities.

Planning is underway for the 2024 ambassadors to work with Cafs Gambler’s Help community engagement staff to develop a gambling harm podcast in 2024.

The 2023 ambassadors represented the following schools:

Maryborough Education Centre, Daylesford Secondary College, Nathalia Secondary College, Lorne P-12 College, Korumburra Secondary College, Beaufort Secondary College, Edenhope College, Myrtleford Marion College, and Mercy College Camperdown.

Know the score workshop

Cafs Gambler’s Help Community Engagement Officer Joanne Smith (far right) with several representatives from CEP’s Rural Youth Ambassador’s Program.

LCHS connecting with community

Latrobe Community Health Service partnered with several neighbourhood and community houses across the Gippsland catchment to help build community awareness of gambling harm and local help services.

In December 2023, Intake and Promotion Officer Rekha Devdas and Financial Counsellor Sabiha Nazli presented to a Carer Catch Up group, which meets once a month at Warragul Community House. The discussion was about what they thought gambling meant, the support services available, and how easy it is for community members to access LCHS’s Gambler’s Help services. Some trivia questions were used as ice breakers and the carers were highly engaged in the discussions.

Latrobe Community health service

Gambler’s Help staff Rekha Devdas and Sabiha Nazli facilitating discussions with carers at the Warragul Neighbourhood House.

Financial counselling news

In conversation with Kelly Preece

Kelly Preece joined Banyule in 2019 and was instantly ‘part of the furniture’. It didn't take long for Kelly to find her feet as a financial counsellor after moving to Victoria from Western Australia.

Kelly was always the first to offer support to other financial counsellors and take on advocacy or gambling harm projects to improve services and supports for those experiencing gambling harm.

Read the full story about Kelly's journey here.

Training and development

Mental health comorbidity and gambling harm

7 March 2024, 10 am 12.30 pm

This session will provide an overview of mental health conditions that co-occur with gambling harm, medical and psychosocial/psychoeducational treatment options and the impact on the work of financial counsellors with individuals and affected others.

It will cover how referrals and support services can be introduced to the person experiencing harm, with a focus on co-developing practical strategies, including financial management techniques, to best support them.

You are required to participate in the entire session to earn full credit. Register here.

Using motivational interviewing techniques with gambling harm clients

27 May 2024, 10 am – 4 pm

Financial Counsellors working in gambling harm programs often work with clients and affected others, who disengage in the service during support.

Motivational interviewing is a unique process that explores and resolves resistance and focuses on facilitating change among clients. Understanding motivational interviewing as a technique will assist us to learn a client’s reason for change, understand the effect of uncertainties, and support the client through their journey to reduce gambling harm and its consequences.

Register here.

Back to top