Self-Determination in Gambling Awareness Programs

Self-Determination in Gambling Awareness Programs

In Victoria, First Nations organisations, community leaders and businesses are leading work to build and deliver culturally appropriate responses to gambling harm. The Yarning Up About Gambling program has been created collaboratively with the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to prevent and reduce gambling harm in First Nations communities.

It’s for mob, delivered by mob and underpinned by a strong commitment to self-determination. It’s also a work in progress that relies on developing, piloting, and evaluating new approaches. There’s been a lot of learning along the way, but the program is making a real difference.

Gambling in First Nations communities

The ongoing and catastrophic effects of colonisation, trauma and social injustices have led to substantial harm from gambling in First Nations communities.

Historically, First Nations people were excluded from mainstream community activities and their traditional cultural activities were restricted. Playing cards and bingo with family and friends became a popular social activity in communities, providing recreation as well as an opportunity to get together and connect.

While most First Nations people who play the pokies or have a bet don’t run into any trouble, for some, gambling does cause significant harm, including stress, family arguments, money problems, and involvement with the police. Due to the close-knit and supportive nature of First Nations communities, this harm can be deeply felt, not just by the individual involved but by their friends, family, and community.

The gambling environment is part of the problem, with many gambling venues located close to where First Nations people live and work. These venues are also often the most affordable places for families to get together and enjoy a meal.

Having a deep understanding of the complex relationship First Nations communities have with gambling is critical to preventing and reducing harm, creating more recreational and social alternatives to gambling, and providing help for people who experience difficulties.

Responding to gambling harm

First Nations communities are diverse, so activities need to be tailored. Initiatives are most successful when a First Nations community designs and delivers a program that is aligned with their history and culture, and meets the aspirations of the community.

Cultural respect and understanding, including in relation to health, are central to working effectively with First Nations people and communities. Understanding the wholistic view of health that First Nations people hold, where it’s not just about one person being physically well, but encompasses the social, emotional, and cultural wellbeing of the whole community, is essential.

Community activities like comedy nights, fishing competitions and other culture-strengthening initiatives provide great opportunities for First Nations people to get together, have fun and build positive social connections.

They provide an environment in which community workers can raise awareness of the risks associated with gambling, share strategies to reduce the harm from gambling, and build individual and community wellbeing from a positive, strength-based position.

Culturally appropriate treatment and support services for people who experience harm from gambling, including financial or therapeutic counselling, traditional healing programs and group work, are also offered.

First Nations organisations lead the way

The five key First Nations organisations that work with the Foundation across Victoria are:

These organisations lead the development of all Foundation-funded First Nations gambling awareness initiatives and their leadership is invaluable.

‘When First Nation’s people govern and direct activities in their communities, the outcomes are better and more sustainable. They’re the experts in what is best for their communities,’ says Dea Morgain, Senior Advisor, Community Engagement at the Foundation.

‘The Foundation sees our role as funding, resourcing, and supporting these organisations – it’s basically a “give them what they need to get the job done and get out of the way” approach,’ she adds.

First Nations adviser in residence

Rod Jackson is the Foundation’s First Nations Adviser. His extensive professional experience is ideal for the role of providing strategic advice and cultural oversight to the Foundation, for example, in relation to the Yarning Up About Gambling program.

Rod is currently engaged at NIKERI at Deakin University as an Elder/Respected Person, on both the County and Magistrates’ Courts of Victoria, and is a board director of the Indigenous Trajectory of the Emotional Well-Being Institute – Geneva.

‘Yarning circles for truth, justice and storytelling, and Dreamtime interpretations with totems, animals, water, land and dance are all extremely important elements of life and Aboriginal peoples’ wellbeing,’ says Rod.

At the Indigenous Wellbeing Conference, Rod will speak about the Yarning Up About Gambling program’s journey so far. He will also share why it’s so important that gambling harm is included in conversations about community-led social change.

Making progress

First Nations people in Victoria are working collaboratively with the Foundation to respond to gambling in a culturally safe way that actively supports self-determination. First Nations leadership is at the heart of ensuring this work is tailored for individual communities. It doesn’t provide all the answers but by trying, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing, and always learning, overall progress is slowly being made – and that’s a great start!


Visit Yarning Up About Gambling to learn more or call 1800 858 858 any time to yarn about gambling.



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