NETWORK PROJECTS -
BEHIND THE SCENES AT THE NEIGHBOURHOOD HOUSE

Gambling affects people from all walks of life. Listen here to ex-AFL player, Brett Guerra, talk about his gambling addiction and the impact it had on his family and friends.

The Upper Murray Regional Neighbourhood House Network was successful in securing Prevention Partnership Program funding through the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation (VRGF). The project, called Behind the Scenes at the Neighbourhood House, ran from October 2019 to March 2022.

The overall goal of the project is to increase the skills, knowledge and understanding of UMRNHN members so they can be proactive in their work with people at risk of gambling harm, particularly through the reduction of social isolation and loneliness and overcoming the stigma associated with gambling. 

The project had a staged approach:

  1. Raise awareness amongst members about the issues of gambling. A project worker will work with members individually and collectively, providing information, training and tools so they develop the understanding and confidence to proactively consider new and existing opportunities with a ‘reduction of gambling harm’ lens.

  2. Resource members through seed funding to develop local strategies that reduce the risk of gambling in their community.

This project recognises the work done by CHAOS Network in East Melbourne in the Together We Do Better project, and aims to build on the learnings from that project to contextualise it to a rural/regional network setting.

Evidence of need

 

There is evidence to indicate that social isolation and loneliness can increase the likelihood of risky behaviours, including problem gambling (Risk Factors for Problem Gambling Report 2015). There is recognition that social connection and inclusion is a protective factor for problem gambling.

 

Loneliness and social isolation have been identified by Network members as a growing issue, as evidenced by the increased participants in, for example, community meals and food share.

Areas of significant socio-economic disadvantage exist across the project area eg Myrtleford; public housing in West Wodonga, Yarrunga and West Wangaratta.

A general review of health and wellbeing data does not highlight gambling as a particular problem in the communities in our Network area. However, Wangaratta stands out as having high expenditure for Electronic Gambling Machines (EGM LGA Level Expenditure). Rural City of Wangaratta Council specifically identifies the reduction of rates of gambling amongst the community as an action in the current Council Plan. Towong Council also identifies gambling in the current Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan as an area of concern that impacts health and wellbeing in Towong Shire.

 

Anecdotal evidence from a youth mental health service in Wodonga reports that a high proportion of clients have been impacted by gambling, either through their own activity or that of a family member. 

Project partners

We are fortunate to have had interest in our project since beginning work on the application. Several organisations have partnered with us to help with the successful delivery of our project:

Project outcomes

 

The overarching problem our project aimed to address was the following:

“There is a lack of understanding amongst the staff and volunteers of the neighbourhood houses in the UMRNHN about the harm caused by problem gambling and how they can work in this [gambling harm reduction] space.”

Given the extraordinary impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are pleased with and proud of what this project has achieved. 

 

As a result of a diverse range of activities, survey results and reports from our members indicate the project has increased their understanding of gambling harm and its impact on individuals, families and communities more broadly. It has increased their confidence in supporting people who may be at risk and helped them see the benefits of providing evening and weekend programs. Many of them are very focused on mental health and wellbeing and see gambling harm reduction as an extension of this work.

 

We hope to see a continuation of the work they’ve started through this project.

Highlights of the project include:

  • The development of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Checklist for Neighbourhood Houses, in consultation with Chris Thorne (formerly CHPCP) and Coby Brock (VACCA). With some additional input from the NHVic Aboriginal Cultural Consultant, this checklist will be made available to the 400+ neighbourhood houses across the state. 

  • “Connect with Community” referral guide for service providers, listing the resources, services and programs available at NHs across the Upper Murray. 

  • Lived experience performances from Three Sides of the Coin and Aaron Perkins-Kemp-Berger. For those who attended, these were extremely powerful and moving performances that clearly demonstrated the devastation that can be caused by gambling.

  • Education workshops for NH staff and volunteers, with presentations from Jody Riordan of Gambler's Help and lived experience speakers from ReSPIN

  • Cultural Awareness workshops with Robynne Nelson - very impactful and will pave the way for our development of a Reconciliation Action Plan for the Network. 

  • The range of locally developed initiatives 13 of our 16 NHs delivered in their local communities, ranging from radio interviews and discussion groups with young people about gambling to cultural cooking and community picnics. Our focus for the NH activities was on providing opportunities to connect and socialise out of ‘normal’ opening hours when someone might otherwise gravitate toward a gambling venue.

  • The development of protocols outlining how Gambler’s Help and the Network will continue working together into the future.

Project resources

Connect with Community Referral Guide (note: this document will be reviewed and updated annually. Programs and activities provided by the neighbourhood houses are subject to change)

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Cultural Safety Checklist for Neighbourhood Houses (note: this is a living document and will be reviewed and revised periodically)

Information about gambling and gambling harm

Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation: The VRGF website is a wealth of information. You can also subscribe to a monthly e-newsletter for updates on programs and the latest research. 

Gambler's Help: Find out how to access support and counselling services as well as information and resources

Gambling Help Online: An online service from Gambler's Help

 

ReSPIN: A free, state wide service funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. Volunteer community educators speak about their personal experiences of gambling harm and recovery to community groups, corporate groups, health services and the media.

 

Three Sides of the Coin: People harmed by gambling perform their stories