30/08/2016 - 12:38

Community care for problem gamblers

30/08/2016 - 12:38

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The producers of a documentary on problem gambling hope it will provoke greater awareness and community discussion of the issue in Western Australia.

Community care for problem gamblers
LEADER: Mihaela Nicolescu headed the Beyond Gambling project, which was attended by 1,500 people across WA. Photo: Attila Csaszar

The producers of a documentary on problem gambling hope it will provoke greater awareness and community discussion of the issue in Western Australia.

Our Ace Community: Beyond Gambling was released this month by the state’s peak community support group, Linkwest, which has former premier Carmen Lawrence as its patron.

The documentary follows a program run by the Perth not-for-profit group at eight of its neighbourhood centres over a 13-month period, attended by more than 1,500 people across WA.

Linkwest sector development projects manager Mihaela Nicolescu, who led the Beyond Gambling project, said it was the first program of its type the organisation had run, and emerged amid growing concerns expressed by visitors to many of its centres across the state about the largely hidden issue of problem gambling.

“Problem gambling is quite confrontational and it can take people time to acknowledge that they have an issue,” Ms Nicolescu told Business News.

According to the Department of Local Government and Communities, more than 110,000 Australians are classified as ‘problem gamblers’, with a further 280,000 considered to be at moderate risk.

Only 15 per cent of those with a gambling problem will seek help.

Ms Nicolescu said approaching the issue at a community level, as opposed to other gambling programs that were delivered individually, often helped people feel more confident about seeking support.

“This is one of those topics people don’t want to talk about; there’s a lot of shame around it,” Ms Nicolescu said.

“One of the project outcomes was to get conversations started in the community, not just about the issue, but the important role communities have to play in both its prevention and treatment.”

The project included an awareness campaign, support training for centre staff members, as well as 240 workshops delivered by partner organisations that focused on providing alternatives to social gambling, such as Scitech’s robotics classes.

Ms Nicolescu said the workshops provided a gentle opening for centres to then provide education and information on counselling sessions.

“Even though the program was a success and well attended, something like problem gambling really requires a long-term initiative for there to be any change in society,” she said.

The program was funded by a one-off $199,476 grant from the Department of Local Government and Communities, and the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor.

Ms Nicolescu said although there was no more funding, she hoped the documentary, now available on YouTube, would spark conversations and community initiatives.

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