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Partner News – final edition 2024

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Gambler’s Help services combine to deliver presentations at Venue Forum

The Venue Forum 2024 held at Kensington Town Hall was a fantastic event organised and run by Venue Support Workers from four Gambler’s Help services (Banyule Community Health, IPC Health, The Salvation Army, Meli) bringing venue managers together to discuss venues’ commitment to harm minimisation.

The hybrid event saw more than 180 attendees both online and in-person. The event focused on continuing and fostering a training and education environment for venue managers to develop and stay up to date with relevant information. It also saw valuable insights shared from representatives from the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC), Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF), Victoria Police, YourPlay Program and venue management.

The timely information gave a succinct overview of the ever-changing gaming venue environment and the work being done to reduce shame and stigma and encourage help seeking behaviour. The VGCCC shed light on their harm minimisation policy and the role it plays in supporting venues while VRGF's Brett Hetherington presented the new Venue Better Practice Guidelines Checklists that focus on providing support to venues to create safer gambling environments.

The Forum hosted a Q&A session led by Banyule Community Health Venue Support Worker, Stuart Barton with several managers of a venue. The session discussed additional strategies that the venue has put in place to minimise gambling harm, that go beyond basic compliance, and the value of regular engagement with Venue Support Workers.

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VSW Gareth Hanlon from Banyule Community Health (centre) with guest speakers at the Venue Forum.

In this edition

Foundation News

New report shines a spotlight on pokies environments

Pokies are associated with more gambling-related harm than any other gambling product, accounting for more than a third of all gambling harm (37.7 per cent).  A new study by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation addresses the need to understand what happens in gambling venue environments and how it might be connected to experiences of harm.

The Electronic gaming machine environment study – Wave 2 study is an information and monitoring project that analyses data from surveys of pokies users and gambling venue staff. Led by senior research officer, Luke Duffy, it provides a snapshot of the Victorian gambling venue environment and the attitudes and behaviours of customers and staff. Conducted annually, the project will provide important insights to inform the ongoing review and improvement of harm minimisation policies and approaches in Victorian gambling venues, and will produce critical data to help evaluate and monitor changes over time.

Read the full report here.

Taking a gamble on alcohol: New report explores the relationship between alcohol use, gambling participation and associated harms

A new Foundation-funded study explores the relationship between alcohol use and gambling participation and their associated harms in Victoria. Led by Dr Koen Smit, a team of researchers at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research at La Trobe University analysed data from a subsample of 2,704 Victorian adults who were asked about both their gambling and alcohol use.

The report describes the groups most commonly participating in drinking and gambling, the relationship between alcohol use and gambling participation and harm and describes this relationship in different demographic and socio-economic populations.

Accompanying the findings that heavy episodic drinking and alcohol use while gambling are associated with risky gambling and gambling harm, this report discusses the implications and opportunities for harm prevention measures.

Read the full report here.

Did they return? New study delves into the experiences of Victorian users of venue-based electronic gaming machines during COVID-19

When COVID-19 forced the closure of Victorian gambling venues, what happened to those who could no longer use venue-based pokies?

A new study funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation investigates the effects of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions on users of venue-based pokies or electronic gaming machines (EGMs). By exploring the experiences of EGM users before, during and after lockdowns, the study examines a broad range of topics including participation in alternative activities and types of gambling, management of gambling urges and use of coping strategies, changes in gambling behaviour, and how many people returned to using venue-based EGMs following lockdowns.

Read the full report here.

Community engagement news

A gateway to First Nations health event

The Gambler’s Help team at Gateway Health collaborated with Uncle Aaron, Ashley Gordon, and Uniting Vic Tas to deliver a gambling harm event at Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service for First Nations organisations. The event had participants from five local First Nations organisations, the Albury Wodonga Ethnic Communities Council, two local councils, and both cross-border gambling support services.

The event elicited discussions about gambling harm through a film debriefing of Uncle Aaron’s story and a yarning card activity led by Ashley. The film screening established a connection to the topic, while the yarning cards encouraged awareness-raising and capacity-building among the staff.

The synergy between these two activities enhanced participants' motivation to identify and respond to gambling harm, eventually leading to inquiries about gambling harm services.

Attendees noted the session was ‘fantastic to engage creatives to aid in sharing these stories”

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Yarning card activity led by Ashley Gordon.

LCHS multicultural networking event builds understanding of gambling harm

In April, the Gambler’s Help team at Latrobe Community Health Service hosted a networking event targeted to multicultural service providers, local peak bodies and internal LCHS teams. The focus was to build an understanding of gambling harm as it relates to multicultural communities, promote the services of the LCHS Gambler’s Help team, acknowledge several community leaders, and strengthen relationships.

CEO of LCHS, Paul Ostrowski opened the session followed by a discussion from the LCHS settlement services team. The event enabled introductions of each Gambler’s Help staff member, and provided insights on what can be expected when individuals access Gambler’s Help counselling services.

Rekha Devdas, LCHS Intake and Promotion Officer, performed a Bharatanatyam dance (classical dance originating from India) and the event concluded with networking and an opportunity to indulge in various cuisines.

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Meeting of the minds at the multicultural networking event

Three Sides of the Coin – Launch two new Recovery Gamble videos

On Thursday 23 May two new Recovery Gamble videos were launched at an online, lunchtime event, as part of the Three Sides of the Coin (3SOC) project.

Attendees of the online event watched Carolyn and Pauline’s raw and powerful stories, followed by a Q&A. There was an overwhelming sense of emotion from those who watched the videos with some saying, “both videos had my heart breaking and admiration soaring for the women involved”  and “a terrific experience and one that will impact on anyone seeing the film.”

3SOC is delivered by Self Help Addiction Resource Centre (SHARC) and uses storytelling as a method of recovery, peer support and community education. Participants – people who have experienced harm by their own or someone else’s gambling – attend workshops and develop their stories into theatre.

For enquiries about 3SOC project and the Recovery Gamble videos, contact Judy Avisar, Coordinator via Three Sides of the Coin website.

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Members of Three Sides of the Coin

ReSPIN presents at 2024 Venue Forum

The Venue Forum also played host to ReSPIN speaker, Merapi who was asked to share her journey dealing with gambling harm. Her open and honest insights allowed attendees to ask questions and understand how to effectively engage with members of the community who may be dealing with gambling harm.

There was overwhelming positivity for Merapi’s story with many commenting on the power of her sharing her story.

“Hearing someone’s actual experience like that gives you a different perspective on gambling harm. It’s not just a word that is used at training and meetings.”

“Putting a face to gambling harm, makes you think about what we do and that we could actually have a positive impact on some one’s life.”

“It makes, you think about our regular customers and whether we could change or do more in relation to our interactions with them.”

Financial counsellor from Meli, Shanah McMahon emphasised the importance of sharing lived experience stories and how Merapi’s journey informed attendees about the struggles and what can be done to help support those in need.

‘As a Gamblers Help financial counsellor, it gives me great hope that behaviours either learnt or handed down can be changed and lives affected can be rebuilt.'

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Do you know anyone who wants to join the Peer Connection program?

Peer Connection is looking for dedicated volunteers with lived experience to give support, understanding, and empathy via a phone-based program to individuals affected by gambling harm.  To qualify, volunteers with a history of gambling must have abstained for at least 12 months and be comfortable discussing their experiences with clients without being triggered.

Candidates undergo comprehensive training over two to three months before being matched with suitable clients. To find out more information or know of clients who might be interested contact Peer Connection via or call 0419 272 497.

Hear from John, a volunteer with Peer Connect for the past 13 years.

  • What made you join peer connect and how long have you been involved?

    I had been attending counselling to help me combat my gambling problem when my gambling counsellor asked if I would be interested in joining the peer connection program as a volunteer. I had always been interested in helping people and this immediately took my interest.  I had abstained from gambling for six months and as a requirement to join the program, I had to abstain for twelve months, which gave me further incentive to stay away from gambling and achieve this goal.

  • How do you think volunteering for Peer Connection has helped you and why?

    Volunteering and helping others gives me a sense of purpose. I’ve learnt a great deal about people, addiction, triggers, tools to help with recovery and myself. It has taught me how constantly being in touch, communicating and listening to another person can have a big effect on someone else and myself. Having common ground makes it easier to connect and communicate.

    It has also taught me to be patient with people as everyone is at a different stage of recovery, and to always be aware of the danger when you let your guard down and take your recovery for granted. The enormous value of building trust and showing kindness to others has also been very important and helpful not just in peer connect but in daily life. I’m continuously learning from giving and receiving.

  • What has been the highlight for you as a volunteer for Peer Connection?

    The trust built with clients and seeing the progress made.  The impact that regularly calling someone can have on both of you.

    One client, early on his journey to giving up, had to deliver a car interstate for work purposes and the destination was close to a casino. He thought about the circumstances and decided that it was too risky for him at the time, so he cancelled the job and made other arrangements so the car could be delivered without his involvement. He told me he was committed to abstaining from gambling and would not take any risks that might thwart his recovery.

  • What advice would you give to anyone thinking about volunteering for Peer Connection?

    I would advise them to go for it. It’s a very rewarding experience being able to help others while also learning a great deal about people, addictions, and yourself. It’s a way of giving back to the community that helped me so much. It will keep you aware of the ever-present harm that problem gambling can have on the individual, the community and yourself.

Training and development

Asset protection and gambling harm

24 July 2024, 2-4.30pm (online)

Ever wondered when that client is sitting in front of you and you’re aware their asset (car, house or other secured asset) is at serious risk and not sure what the next steps and conversations with your client may be?

Come along to this Financial Victoria session and hear about asset protection strategies and processes. Learn from the experts regarding the various options available to those experiencing gambling harm, as well as their families. Financial Victoria will also cover credit reporting data, and blocks available to people considering how to protect their remaining assets from the perils of gambling harm.

Register here.

Gambling Harm: Working with an integrated practice lens

29 August 2024, 10am-12.30pm

This Financial Victoria online seminar will discuss case studies of best practice when referring to and working in an integrated model to ensure the client receives best practice service. An integrated practice looks at outcomes for people experiencing gambling harm when connected with counsellors, housing, legal and family violence services. Attendees will hear from a financial counsellor, a therapeutic counsellor and community service about what works best for the client and for us. It will also showcase why integrated practice is so important in this field and with those experiencing gambling harm (and their families).

Register here.

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