Webinar: Addressing gambling in Indigenous communities

Webinar: Addressing gambling in Indigenous communities


Well good afternoon everybody and welcome
to today’s webinar on the topic of addressing
gambling in Indigenous communities: Embracing,
community, diversity and wellbeing. The seminar
is presented by the Child Family Community
Australia Information Exchange and the Australian
Gambling Research Centre, both here at the
Australian Institute of Family Studies. My
name is Daryl Higgins and I’m the deputy director
here at the institute. Today we will hear
about the diverse and complex ways gambling
affects Indigenous families and communities,
and the relevance of applying a health promotion
framework to address the issues related to
gambling and Indigenous content.
And we’re also going to be looking at the
relevance of applying a health promotion framework
to address the issues related to gambling
in the Indigenous context, as I said. We’re
going to be drawing on the extensive knowledge
gained from gambling service delivery in two
of our states and territories, the Northern
Territory and New South Wales, and this is
really important for us because as you know,
we’ve established the Australian Gambling
Research Centre here at the institute and
it’s been in operation since July 2013.
It provides high quality evidence-based publications
and resources to increase the capacity and
capability of policy makers, researchers and
professionals working in the gambling sector,
focusing particularly on understanding the
harm that’s caused by gambling to problem
gamblers, their families and community members,
and those at risk of experiencing harm and
looking at measures that can be undertaken
to reduce harm, and, of course, statistics
and data on recreational gambling as well.
In that context it’s a great partnership between
the Australian Gambling Research Centre and
the CFCA Information Exchange to present this
webinar today.
But before I go on and introduce our speakers,
I would like to acknowledge the traditional
custodians of the lands on which we’re all
meeting here in Melbourne and around the country,
and pay respects to the Wurundjeri people
of the Kulin Nation here and to Elders past
and present from all of the communities around
the country where each of you are participating
today. It’s now my great pleasure to introduce
the three speakers that we have today.
The first speaker is Dr Marisa Fogarty, who’s
a post-doctoral fellow at the Australian National
University Centre for Social Research and
Methods. Marisa has a PhD in Anthropology
from Charles Darwin University and a Masters
in Applied Anthropology and Participatory
Development from ANU. Following Marisa will
be Nicola Coalter, who’s a registered psychologist
currently undertaking a Masters in Public
Health and works as the coordinator of Amity’s
Territory-wide gambling project, and we’re
looking forward to hearing about that.
And finally Ashley Gordon is an Aboriginal
Australian from the western New South Wales
community of Brewarrina. I hope I’ve pronounced
that correctly, Ashley, a descendent of the
Gamilaroi people. Ashley has been a gambling
counsellor for 7 years and is now a fulltime
Aboriginal gambling consultant. While Dr Helen
Breen wasn’t able to join us today,
she has also contributed to part of the presentation
today and she’s an adjunct research fellow
with the Centre for Gambling Education and
Research at Southern Cross University.
So just a couple of housekeeping things before
we go on. As I mentioned, of course, CFCA
has a real focus on sharing information, and
I would like to remind everyone that you can
submit questions today via the chatbox function
on your webinar and we’ll allow a short amount
of time at the end of the presentation to
try and respond to as many of those questions
as possible, so please start sending those
in as soon as you think of the question.
We also want to continue the conversation
beyond the
one-hour webinar and so to facilitate this,
we’ve set up a forum on the CFCA website where
you can discuss the ideas and the issues raised,
and submit additional questions after the
conclusion of today’s webinar. We’ll send
you a link to that following the webinar.
Please also remember that the webinar is being
recorded and the audio and transcript and
the presentation slides will be made available
on the website and the YouTube channel in
due course. Accessible versions will also
be available. So that’s enough from me. I’d
like you to join me in welcoming each of our
presenters in a very warm virtual handclap
welcome. So first up, Dr Marisa Fogarty. Thank
you, Marisa.
Hello, thank you very much, Daryl. We would
like to start today’s presentation by saying
thank you very much to the Australian Institute
for Family Studies, specifically the CFCA
Information Exchange and the Australian Gambling
Research Centre, for working with us to present
these ideas today. We see this webinar as
a really significant opportunity to present
a structured framework to begin to address
gambling issues in Indigenous communities
that has relevance across jurisdictions. As
much as we are highlighting what has been
done and what knowledge we do have, it is
also intended that this webinar will highlight
where the gaps are and what work needs to
be done in this area. So we would like to
thank everyone for joining us today.
We would like to acknowledge the traditional
custodians of this land and in particular
I’m talking from the ACT so I’d like to acknowledge
the Ngunnawal people and pay respects to Elders
past and present. As Daryl outlined, today
these are the authors of this presentation.
Dr Helen Breen was unable to join us, so I
will be reading her part of the presentation,
which I will let you know what part is hers.
So, gambling is an activity that impacts on
Indigenous families and communities around
Australia in diverse and complex ways. To
date, there has been a significant lack of
coordinated research, service delivery and
policy focus in this area. This is in part
a result of the diversity of Aboriginal people’s
gambling practices. For example, across the
remote north and central areas of Australia
the predominant gambling activity is unregulated
card games, whereas the gambling activities
of people living in urban and regional areas
is much more focused on poker machine gambling.
There is also the issue of the diversity of
contexts in which Aboriginal people live around
Australia. For example, the service and policy
needs of people living in very remote areas
of Australia will differ significantly to
the needs and realities of Aboriginal people
residing in large urban centres. This webinar
will address this diversity and discuss the
relevance of applying a health promotion framework
to address these issues related to gambling
in the Indigenous context in Australia. We
will discuss the five key areas of action
of the Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion
and analyse how this framework can be used
to guide existing policies, guidelines and
strategic directions.
It is the central premise of this webinar
that these areas of action, these principles,
are framed in collaboration with communities
around the way in which Aboriginal people
do gamble and the broader social context of
people’s lives. Doing so will create opportunities
for community engagement and community-driven
sustainable actions for promoting the health
and wellbeing of Aboriginal families and communities.
So just to give you an overview very quickly
of what the research suggests. The Australian
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
Survey found that about 8 per cent of Indigenous
people reported gambling as a family stressor
in their survey. In the Longitudinal Study
of Indigenous Children Wave 3, 26 per cent
of primary carer respondents to the survey
reported that either they or a close family
member had a gambling problem. That survey
also found that irrespective of remoteness,
Indigenous people were unlikely to engage
with gambling help services. Other research
suggests that Aboriginal people experience
problems at two to five times the rate of
the general population across all states and
territories. That particular study used the
NATSISS, the National Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Social Survey, which you can
see the estimates of reported gambling problems
in the table on the slide.
So what we want to introduce today is a health
promotion framework. Health promotion is a
particular discourse within a public health
paradigm that aims to promote and improve
the health of individuals, communities and
whole populations through empowering participatory
approaches. In Australia, there has been increasing
commitment and investment, particularly at
state and territory levels, in adopting health
promotion frameworks. There is also increasing
evidence of the effectiveness of the adoption
of a health promotion framework to address
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health
issues in Australia. The 2012 Scoping Study
of Health Promotion Tools from Lowitja Health
Institute looked at the evidence of a health
promotion framework in the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander field and they found
that community-driven well-designed and implemented
health promotion does result in improved health
in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Today we’re going to present the health promotion
principles in relation to Indigenous gambling
issues. The five key principles for action
that we’re going to look at are building healthy
public policy, creating supportive environments,
strengthening community action, helping people
develop skills and reorientating health services.
So the next part of this presentation is going
to be Dr Helen Breen’s, which I will be reading
for you today. Helen wanted to acknowledge
the research team at the Centre for Gambling,
Education and Research at Southern Cross University.
She also wanted to acknowledge the cooperation
and collaboration of many Aboriginal people,
as it is very much appreciated and was the
foundation for this research. Funding was
received for this research from the Australian
Research Council Discovery Grant and an Australian
Postgraduate Award.
So the central tenet of building healthy public
policy. This principle of a health promotion
approach places a population’s health and
wellbeing at the centre of all public policy
creation. All public policy development must
consider its impact on a population’s health.
This principle requires identifying impacts,
risks and barriers likely to prevent the adoption
of healthy public policies and find ways of
reducing or even removing them. Finally, building
healthy public policy relies on adequate resource
decisions. This principle recognises the cost
effectiveness of health promotion strategies
and should support them through funding. Providing
resources for health promotion programs that
target particular topics, such as consumer
protection for gamblers and the prevention
of gambling related problems, should ultimately
reduce expenditure on treatment services and
rehabilitation.
So, why building healthy public policy is
important for Aboriginal people with gambling
issues. Moving now to the topic of our presentation,
it is important to explain the underlying
rationale. One size does not fit all. Aboriginal
populations appear to face higher risks with
their gambling than non-Aboriginal populations.
Risks and barriers for building healthy public
policy do exist. For example broad cultural
diversity, large family kinship groups and
cultural responsibilities, younger populations
and increasing numbers of younger people,
and also small group numbers in geographically
sparse areas, urban and remote diversity,
and the impact of structural issues such as
structural disadvantage, historical discrimination,
unequal opportunities for education et cetera.
How does this relate to gambling? Gambling
is a popular acceptable social activity that
can produce positive and negative outcomes.
Card gambling in Aboriginal communities has
lengthy, historical, social and cultural foundations
for many Aboriginal families. But Aboriginal
gamblers seem to use commercial gambling,
especially poker machines, much more now and
to a much greater extent than the general
Australian population. Research suggests that
the implication of frequent, regular, high
intensity gambling by people with a disadvantaged
background is that gambling related harms
are common but often kept hidden. Shame and
stigma are associated with disclosure about
gambling problems, but the harms include a
lack of money for daily needs, stress, arguments,
troubled families and poorer communities.
So a reduction of general health and wellbeing
of individuals, families and communities is
felt when gambling harm is experienced.
What are the implications for public policy?
The crux of the matter is we don’t have much
basic evidence in this area on which to base
healthy public policy. That is why using this
health promotion approach is particularly
useful because it provides a framework to
work within to develop policy in this area
of gambling, and the impacts on families and
communities. What we can identify and explain
is the risks associated with gambling by Aboriginal
people. People recognise and describe these
risks as seen within their families and communities.
So let’s begin with the definition of risk.
Risk is a position where a person is exposed
to the likelihood of experiencing an adverse
or undesirable outcome. Further, a risk factor
is a variable associated with increased chances
of facing undesirable outcomes. For example,
the risk of losing money by gambling on poker
machines is high for all gamblers but a risk
factor for an Aboriginal gambler might be
the expectation of winning money based on
culturally acceptable card gambling experiences
where winnings mostly remain in family groups
or communities.
So who faces risks with their gambling? Most
Aboriginal people who gamble face some risk.
The research that Helen conducted surveying
over 1,200 Aboriginal people at three Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander sports and cultural
festivals found that almost half of all research
participants, and nearly two-thirds of all
gamblers, face some risk with their gambling.
Some of these risks factors included older
people, those always exposed to adult gambling
when children, and those with family and friends
who gamble. In this context, generational
influences are very important.
So who engages in high-risk behaviour with
their gambling? Those people who start gambling
when younger, under ten years, those who gamble
regularly, those who gamble on multiple forms,
those who spend more than $100 on their favourite
gambling form each fortnight, and those who
consume alcohol and/or drugs while gambling.
Regular, frequent, high expenditure gambling
accompanied by alcohol and/or drug use is
high-risk behaviour.
So what about risk factors? Helen’s research
has identified three common sets of risks
that have been associated with gambling motivations,
gambling products and gambling consequences
for Aboriginal gamblers. Firstly, the motivations
to gamble: a belief in winning, a belief,
a system or strategy can lead you to win and
reduce poverty, for example; to escape; it
helps people to relax; it reduces stress,
depression, and general cultural influences,
historical attitudes and beliefs about gambling,
reciprocal obligations et cetera. Access to
gambling is another factor – so easy physical
and social access to both card games and commercial
gambling. And the consequences of gambling
– poverty, shame and stigma and a reluctance
to seek gambling help – are all risk factors.
For balance, Helen’s research has also looked
at identifying protective aspects of gambling
by Aboriginal people. So protection is the
action a person takes to preserve their life
and wellbeing. Protective factors increase
a person’s ability to resist the pull of a
risk. Protective factors are flexible, they
can accumulate and their accumulation can
lead to resilience. Importantly, protective
factors associated with card and commercial
gambling are mostly cultural, thus valuable
and important for Aboriginal people as demonstrated.
Engagement with collective culture. Aboriginal
society is characterised by close, dense and
extensive networks. These are a protective
factor – this cultural relatedness based
on strong Indigenous kinship groups. Cohesion
in these cultural networks and resilience
grows from this as well. Individual social
group and controls – these are another protective
mechanism. Some people set gambling limits
with budgets. Self-control and group self-regulation
are all protective mechanisms. Role models,
parents, siblings, extended family – all
provide positive examples. And religious beliefs
is also a protective factor because it discourages
some people from gambling.
So in conclusion, Aboriginal family networks,
cultural values and social relationships appear
to have enduring power in helping to spread
awareness, managing to assist in preventing
various harms while protecting some gamblers
from gambling risks. This is an important,
appropriate and valuable resource to be harnessed
to contribute to building and resourcing healthy
public policy for Aboriginal people who gamble.
Now in the presentation we’re going to move
onto my part that I’m going to talk about
today. Two of the principles that I have looked
at, health promotion principles, are developing
personal skills and creating supportive environments.
Korn and Schaffer, who wrote one of the most
influential papers on adopting a public health
approach to gambling, defined the rationale
behind the Ottawa principle of developing
personal skills as focusing on developing
individual skills in the areas of decision
making, self-monitoring, intervention, to
make balanced inform choices in relation to
gambling.
However, when working in the Indigenous context,
for health population to be successful, the
approach needs to resonate with Indigenous
understandings of health and wellbeing. So
in today’s seminar, we’re going to define
health as the National Aboriginal Community
Controlled Health Organisation defines Aboriginal
health as meaning not just the physical wellbeing
of an individual but it also refers to the
social, emotional and cultural wellbeing of
the whole community. It’s a whole-of-life
view and includes the cyclical concept of
life-death-life.
So a holistic development of skills. To adopt
this understanding of Aboriginal health in
relation to health promotion, it needs to
be holistic. This is outlined in the slide
in the model. That is, that central to this
principle is incorporating Indigenous knowledge
and understandings. So how we work with that
knowledge and understanding is really about
adopting a strengths-based approach and identifying
different skill sets and requirements for
building social wellbeing at the individual,
family and community levels.
A strength-based approach is really about
shifting the overall focus away from the deficit
or the problem or pathology of an individual
in relation to gambling – so instead it’s
about embracing strengths principles. That
is, that every individual, family group and
community has strengths, and focusing on these
strengths rather than pathology, that the
community is a rich source of resources, that
interventions are based on
self-determination, collaboration is central
and essential, and a belief that all people
have the inherent capacity to learn, grow
and change.
What is really central to this understanding
of developing skills and empowering people
is, as Helen said, through the development
of skills and the promotion and support of
strengths and protective factors. So looking
at the incorporation of Indigenous understandings
of gambling, the central premise to holistically
developing skills is the incorporation of
Indigenous understandings and context into
every part of a health promotion approach.
This is really what I see as the ethical underpinning
of applying this approach. A very clear example
of this is understanding, incorporating and
working with Indigenous understandings of
when gambling becomes a problem.
Ethnographic research that I conducted in
the Northern Territory found that mainstream
notions of time or money spent gambling were
not central to Indigenous people’s views of
problem gambling. This is not to say that
people did not experience problems as a result
of losing their money or spend detrimental
amounts of time gambling. People did. However,
the research found that a problem was perceived
in how the individual had responded and treated
others around them. So Aboriginal people defined
a person as having a gambling problem as a
person neglecting or rejecting social relationships
and obligations as a result of their gambling.
The research found that problems with gambling
were most often identified by Aboriginal people
when the gambling became individuated. That
is, when an individual began to attend card
games or gambling venues by themselves or
not play within accepted social structures,
or it was when people were seen to be neglecting
their obligations in terms of sharing their
winnings, for example.
Important understandings about gambling also
come from understanding money and how Indigenous
people use and incorporate cash into their
everyday lives, understanding that cash is
a shared commodity. Particularly across the
north of Australia, cash has been adopted
into community life in culturally unique ways,
and gambling, particularly card games, have
a very prominent role in the distribution
of cash in households and communities. So
what does developing skills look like?
Well to give you an example, in education
and awareness in particular, developing resources
for community health and education services,
community organisations and institutions,
to educate and develop skills in understanding
and addressing gambling issues. Developing
guidelines for best practice and service delivery
to address gambling and the impacts on Indigenous
families and community in culturally appropriate
ways. Another suggestion is developing resources
within communities for communities to address
gambling issues – for example, community
guidelines for safe gambling. So having a
multi-level multi-service approach, working
simultaneously at individual family and community
levels is really the crux of building and
developing skills.
The second principle that I want to talk about
today is about creating supportive environments.
There’s many levels to this principle as well,
and it goes to the physical health of people’s
households and communities. But in particular
what I want to focus on today is looking at
how you create safe, supportive, appropriate
gambling help services. That first point is
the way that these supportive environments
have presented around Australia is at the
moment very different in different jurisdictions.
There are many different approaches in different
states to addressing Indigenous gambling issues
and they really are quite significantly different,
but there’s a lack of research and a lack
of evidence in this area of what constitutes
best practice, what does work, what doesn’t
work in Indigenous gambling service delivery.
A large part of the development of a supportive
environment is reflected in the cultural competency
of a service or organisation. So again, there’s
a lack of constructive guidelines to inform
culturally appropriate gambling service delivery
in Australia.
The other sort of more broad aspect of creating
supportive environments that I want to discuss
today is basically broadening the domain when
looking at a community, town or city as a
whole environment, with multiple resources
available to address gambling. For example,
schools, health clinics, early childhood centres,
women centres, police services, businesses.
So really looking at gambling and addressing
gambling at a much broader level. There’s
a significant amount of expertise and resources
that already exist within all these organisations
and communities
So it’s about engaging the people that work
in these areas and educating people about
gambling. That way it begins to build a supportive
environment. Again it’s counselling services,
gambling helplines, financial counselling,
parenting programs, diversionary programs,
school programs. These all exist to some capacity
at the moment and so it’s about presenting
people with these services in an accessible
package, and letting people know that they
are supported in this. A huge part of this
is really about creating self-sustaining supportive
environments to address gambling issues, because,
particularly in the really remote areas, the
cost and the logistics of, you know, address
gambling in these areas is significant, so
we need to think more broadly about the environments
that we’re working in. Now I’m going to go
to Nicola from Amity Community Services, who’s
going to discuss the principle of reorientating
health services, so thank you.
Thanks, Marisa. I’d just like to kick off
with a little about us here at Amity and the
places that we work around the territory,
and then talk about action research and continuous
improvement to change the direction of some
of our service delivery around gambling. Amity
has been working in the area of problem gambling
and gambling for over two decades. Our program
is underpinned by the public health model
and works predominantly in the areas of intervention
and prevention. We’ve been involved in the
field of harm minimisation and community education,
and training and development for over four
decades. We espouse a public health view to
gambling issues throughout the territory and
we acknowledge the existence of gambling and
its related problems arising from a complex
interaction between the games people play,
the individuals and the factors within the
individual that contribute to the desire to
gamble and the socio-political, environmental
or systemic factors that might impact or encourage
or discourage people to gamble.
The priorities for our service delivery are
around prevention, education and intervention
services. We try to stimulate community awareness
and we work collaboratively to develop a range
of public health campaigns. We engage in community
development projects focused on building community
resilience. We facilitate information about
the nature of behaviour and change for people
and for communities. We work to enhance health
literacy outcomes and promote the adoption
of healthy habits and lifestyles. We also
like to participate in research.
We began receiving requests from a range of
people throughout the territory and as a part
of our commitment to continuous improvement.
We reviewed and further looked at our programs
and practices. We’re engaging in a lot of
community education, brief interventions and
face-to-face counselling driven by appointments,
and we could recognise that we were missing
a whole range of people from a whole range
of places throughout the territory.
This is where we work. Regulated and unregulated
gambling activities have long been part of
the social and cultural fabric of the Northern
Territory. Similar to other states and territories
in Australia, the territory has had a long
association with gambling. Gambling is thought
to have been introduced to Aboriginal communities
through contact with Asian traders who frequented
the north Australian waters, then later through
the arrival of Europeans and through the Afghan
camel drivers in central Australia. Horse
racing has held a prominent position in cultural
and social fabric of the community since European
settlement. Race meetings were well attended
by a cosmopolitan population as early as the
1870s.
The territory has a vast land area of 1.352
million square kilometres; however, its small
population means it has the lowest population
density of any state of territory. Here in
greater Darwin, we have a population of about
128,000 people, which constitutes half of
the territory’s population. Alice Springs
located 1,500 kilometres south of Darwin has
about 27,000 people. The estimated population
of the territory is about 241,000 people of
which 30 per cent are estimated to be Indigenous
people. Our experience has shown us that working
with a systems approach offers the greatest
opportunity to identify, develop and deliver
services that directly and indirectly work
to reduce the harms associated with gambling.
We work from an action research framework.
In 1944, Lewin coined the term and described
it as research leading to social action. Action
research is a practice that enables us to
explore a series of steps composed of cycles
of planning, action, fact finding about the
results of our action. Our planning for this
particular service delivery came about as
a result of people telling us that they were
worried about gambling in their community.
This case example is from 2007. We planned
to go and learn about the community’s experience
of gambling. Through identifying and informing
and organising our work, we thought about
how we could work together for sustainable
gambling interventions in communities that
are very often far away from our offices.
We had a range of requests from people and
services and communities, and through these
requests, we worked to developed partnerships
and develop a workshop in a central location
in the desert in Alice Springs. This workshop
was aimed at attracting a diverse range of
health workers, Indigenous and non-Indigenous,
and through the experience, the group who
participated also worked on a strategy to
inform their actions. The strategy and stories
were painted onto a canvas. This vision was
about working to minimise harms and create
discussions around safer gambling. Together
we explored the nature of chance and luck,
how gambling happens in the community, how
gambling was hurting people and helping others,
and how people can help people who are hurting.
We learned a lot.
People told us they enjoyed the workshop and
hearing about other people and their stories.
One participant summed it up nicely with,
“We learn new ideas from each other and we
learn about what other communities are doing
that they think are working around gambling”.
There were suggestions about what we could
do next, more workshops to help more people
learn to talk about gambling in the community.
One thing that came through a lot from our
feedback was we need more health promotion
material – material that means something
to us and that can help workers talk about
gambling.
As a part of action research and also reflective
practice, we visited our session plans, our
workshop notes, the evidence. We thought about
our experience of this work and other work,
and we agreed that the next step was to develop
and deliver a remote awareness campaign around
regulated and unregulated gambling. Korn and
Shaffer in their work of gambling through
their public health perspectives suggested
that for services and partnerships, we could
do a number of things. One of those things
was to organise gambling programs across a
range of gambling behaviours. For us, this
fitted well with what we learned about gambling
in some communities around the territory.
We could ensure that the service included
a community needs analysis. We see it as vitally
important to talk and listen to people about
what they want before we can undertake any
work. The primary prevention and the model
of change for people in communities was at
the forefront of our minds and we worked to
develop a public awareness campaign. We saw
this as a way of offering the least intrusive
treatment option first up. These components
from the research informed our campaign, which
aimed to deliver local gambling health promotion
messages and materials throughout a number
of remote communities in the territory, and
it was suitable to a diverse range of workers,
for example teachers, local police and healthcare
workers.
The campaign worked collaboratively with iTalk
Library to develop a comprehensive public
awareness and education program, employing
a participatory action framework that told
stories about people’s experience. We developed
messages in a range of languages for the territory
and these were distributed through talking
posters, local television campaigns, with
messages on t-shirts and bags. And from that
campaign, we are now working with communities
to deliver the painting and talking about
gambling workshops. Our aim is always to deliver
information and education, and to have people
capture their stories and messages in paintings.
Paintings have become the local health promotion
material and are often displayed around the
community, for example in health clinics or
at the local shop. People tell us it helps
to get people talking about gambling and problems.
So that was back in 2007 and now to this year’s
work. How do we do it? How do we maintain
motivation? How do we maintain momentum with
the work that we do? We break the project
into small chunks and we break it up throughout
the territory. We take time to learn and then
to implement that learning action research.
We keep the big picture in mind and focus
on one piece at a time. It becomes much more
manageable. We have a strategy, but we remain
flexible and prepared to change throughout
the course. We bring in specialists when needed
and we try and celebrate the small wins along
the way.
So we thought about our process and the evidence
and then we thought about change and reorientation.
We learned a lot about ourselves and about
improvement. We learned a lot about working
with a diverse range of people throughout
this vast territory. This required a significant
amount of resources and internal focus that
usually goes to service delivery externally.
It took us a while to set up the frameworks,
to monitor and review our practice, and to
continually improve. Through our service,
it has built resilience – resilience in
our people, for our communities and in our
service delivery.
This here is one example of local health promotion.
This painting tells about one project’s vision
on how to keep communities strong from their
perspective around gambling. It talks about
keeping culture strong, about education and
budgeting as important factors, about attending
and keeping informed and connected throughout
the community, about our faith and our church,
how important it is to keep night patrol strong,
to have enough jobs, to have support for new
mothers in the community, and to look after
older people. This group also identified that
a way of keeping strong is to have no involvement
with drugs.
Everyone in the group agreed gambling was
a problem and it was time to look at how we
could work to begin the conversation and assist
with community action. The health promotion
painting shows individual and community attitudes
in regards to gambling and information about
strategies for safer gambling. That’s all
from me here in sunny Darwin where it’s 33
degrees and a blue sky, and I’ll now hand
over to Ashley to talk about strengthening
community action.
Thank you, Nicola. Yeah, my name is Ashley
Gordon. I want to acknowledge the Responsible
Gambling Fund here in New South Wales and
I want to acknowledge any Aboriginal people
online out there tackling those problems in
communities, but I also want to acknowledge
those non-Aboriginal people helping and striving
to improve Aboriginal people’s lives, particularly
around problem gambling. My work is basically,
and the information I’m going to present,
is just basically from my work with Southern
Cross Uni, but also my work in visiting more
than 150 communities across Australia and
particularly New South Wales, so hopefully
it’s some benefit.
But for me, it’s about understanding Aboriginal
people today, understanding land and spirituality,
kinship structures, history and its impact
today, and Aboriginal culture as it is today.
For me, it’s important to understand that
Aboriginal people do not have or come from
an individualistic world view but instead
their selves belonging to and identifying
with a collective body and that’s why, you
know, the approach that I’m talking about
today, which is about strengthening community,
particularly community action, is about looking
at the collective body and everything we do
towards that. It should be focused on looking
at the issues as a community and as Aboriginal
people and culture.
What do Aboriginal people do if they want
to address the issues associated with gambling?
What we’ve seen here is many want to deal
with it themselves, then secondly seek help
from family friends or their mob, then thirdly
seek treatment. And I want to talk about this
slide because most of the funding in this
country goes to seeking treatment, which is
very important, but I think we can throw more
programs and funding towards providing individuals
ways of dealing with it themselves, providing
information and knowledge so they can make
informed choices. But for us, we are big on
family and kinship, so if we can provide skills
and knowledge for those people, I think we’ll
find more family members and friends supporting
one another. I just don’t think we’re doing
that as well as we should.
And down the bottom there, many Aboriginal
people are generally hesitant about therapy
because talking is not seen as an answer to
most problems. Now that is slowly improving,
but historically many Aboriginal people didn’t
talk to people to deal with problems, but
many – we used to go walkabout and sort
our problems out by ourselves, but talking
to a
non-Aboriginal person in particular is very
difficult and it’s something obviously we’re
still trying to work with.
Obviously we look at the influencing factors
and this is where I talk about understanding
the self, understanding someone’s self-esteem
and confidence and values, and what’s going
on in their lives, but also looking at the
influencing factors of family, particularly
around the kinship structure, my responsibilities
in that family, the influences that come from
family that are impacting me. Then we need
to look at community, because I think community,
there are a lot of responsibilities. There’s
a lot of different families and different
relationships, but there’s a lot of expectations
that again can influence ourselves to either
be tackling or confronting problems, particularly
around problem gambling. And obviously the
influencing factors from culture, that is
very important, and then you throw in Western
society and what factors from Western society
could be impacting me to gamble. But again,
you’ve got to look at all the four circles
there, but also the Western society.
I talk about walking in two worlds, understanding
Aboriginal people need to understand ourselves,
our community, our family, our culture, and
that’s evident when we look at trying to counsel
someone. But then you look at the non-Aboriginal
world and you look at the influencing factors
there from gambling and drugs and alcohol,
to work, family relationships, education.
But when I’m counselling Aboriginal people,
I talk about how big is the Aboriginal people.
Is that circle there on the left bigger or
is it smaller than the non-Aboriginal circle?
And again, we look at that and try and improve
the way people are looking at themselves and
their approaches, and what they currently
value. We can look to help that individual
but also from a community perspective, we
can also look at what influencing factors
are obviously there for community as well.
Why are we not addressing our gambling in
many Aboriginal communities? I just put down
some points. There’s many other factors, but,
for me, there are so many other issues that
Aboriginal people and governments are facing
that need attention and they’re all there
for you to read. But obviously you know that
drugs is now – particularly ice – is a
huge problem but you look at our physical
health, our cultural identity. Many things
that we’re out there addressing, and gambling
is still a very sensitive issue to bring up.
In many communities, it’s still very much
hidden. Even though you talk to many people,
they know it’s causing problems, they know
of many people struggling with problem gambling.
But again, it seems to be really sensitive
and still very hard for us to bring to the
surface.
There’s a lack of strategies to address the
issues associated with problem gambling. At
the moment, most states are looking at the
majority of their funding going towards gambling
counselling. For me, you know, we could look
at other ways. You know, we’ve talked about
a couple of them already. I know Amity is
doing a great job doing other things as well
around education and awareness, even tapping
into healing programs and Aboriginal specific
services, but again we need to look at other
ways to address problem gambling especially
in Aboriginal communities.
Gambling is seen as an individual problem,
not a community concern, and that’s where
if we can bring it to the attention of the
community and make it as a priority – and
that’s why it relates to the bottom slide
there. Aboriginal people and communities are
not yet recognising that gambling is a problem.
If it’s not discussed or acknowledged, it
doesn’t become a priority to address. So if
we want to implement programs, we need to
ensure that the community is discussing it,
is talking about it, can recognise that we
need to move forward and address these problems.
If we acknowledge it, we give ownership to
the Aboriginal community and then it can become
a priority to address.
When we talk about service delivery to problem
gambling services, it’s about working together
with our community – especially Aboriginal
services, working closer with them. I know
many gambling help services struggle there.
We need to find local Aboriginal leaders and
supporters of what we’re all trying to do.
I know here in New South Wales, I call them
safe gambling Aboriginal ambassadors, and
they’re out there helping me. Even though
they might be working in other industries,
particularly health, they are still focusing
on problem gambling and they’re assisting
me in their own community.
Effective education awareness programs – we
spoke about that, but our people are very
visualised people; we want to see things out
there particularly down the bottom there with
marking material. It’s very important to us.
It’s very visual. Governments allowing flexible
service delivery for gambling help services.
I know that many allow us to report on relationships
building, and building that rapport with community.
All the issues and barriers that goes with
trying to work with an Aboriginal community
takes time. We need patience, we need understanding.
A lot of services tell me that, you know,
they can’t report on anything outside of client
numbers and face to face. I know a lot of
work that they do is quite valuable, but they
can’t report on that. It’s all back to relationships
building and cultural sensitivity.
Even back to inviting premises and the location
of the service needs to be looked at. There
are some services out there that communities
just don’t want to go to, and that comes back
to the image of that organisation. I think
that more work needs to be done on the image
of many gambling help services and how it’s
perceived in Aboriginal communities, and even
educating community on what they do. What
is counselling? You know, is it group therapy?
Is it like GA? Do I have to worry about the
cost or anything? Can I bring my family? Can
I bring my mob with me? There are a lot of
answers that community need to have.
As counsellors, we need to show community
and people our values, our character. We’re
looking at the respect, the trust and the
honesty. Our mob really want to see your fair
dinkum approach. We want to see that it’s
genuine. We talk about being holistic. It
cannot just focus on the gambling because
we know how closely it’s linked with many
other issues and problems in our life, and
there’s so many other help services out there
that we could be tackling rather than relying
totally on gambling help services.
So, realising that you need to be prepared
to build relationships and they need to be
genuine relationships, not tokenistic. We’ll
need to change and adapt and be flexible.
There’s a lot of flexibility when working
with Aboriginal people in community and that
needs to occur. Listen, learn, share. Just
because people are there to help doesn’t mean
Aboriginal people want it. It’s about sitting
down and listening, and being able to share.
Go to the communities, being visible, you
know, being able to implement a variety of
therapies. I know there are a lot of services
around Australia. It’s pretty much one therapy
or maybe two, but again looking at a variety
of therapeutic practice that might be effective
for Aboriginal people. We’ve seen a lot of
people doing more art therapy and more narrative
therapy. More Aboriginal healing services
and programs are being adopted now.
And then finally my last slide is about strengthening
community action and empowering community.
So in summary, basically if services can implement
awareness raising programs, a quality education
service, quality engagement in the communities,
allowing that collaboration, the planning
that needs to go into it before you even get
to a community needs to take place so we can
implement quality services including cultural
appreciation. If we can do that well, community
then acknowledges that gambling may be a concern.
They begin to recognise that they need to
take action, recognise that it is causing
problems for families. They then can take
ownership of the problem associated with problem
gambling and that’s really important.
Because if we can give ownership to a community
rather than tell them what they should be
doing and telling them how things should go,
you’ll find that a community will take more
action and a lot quicker. But we need to give
ownership to the community so then they can
be engaged and they’re a part of the process
allowing for collaboration. Then community
can sit down and help plan what they would
like to see happen in the community. It’s
not about anyone telling them but they’re
a part of the planning process, which means
they will take action. And then you will have
a number of supporters, a number of people
in community helping services and the community
to move forward. For me, that’s how we build
stronger communities and empower communities.
Thank you, I’ll hand back to you now, Marisa.
Thanks, Ashley. Again we would like to say
thank you very much to everyone for taking
the time to listen to us today. We really
see this as a very important issue that needs
significant investment. That is, investment
in resources, investment in research, investment
in policy and program development in Australia.
The potential benefit of adopting a health
promotion framework is significant in terms
of empowering Indigenous people and communities
around Australia to address gambling issues.
If you have further questions, please don’t
hesitate to contact us.

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