For the past three years, Ashley has been running Aboriginal Safe Gambling workshops with Aboriginal communities all over the state to provide skills, knowledge and awareness to deal with this often-overlooked problem.
“It’s all about getting to communities all over NSW, spending a few days in each community and delivering workshops, working with service providers, community members, and educating and providing information on gambling and how it’s impacting on our people,” explains Ashley.
Since he started working in the campaign, he has visited over 30 communities and spoken to more than 36,000 Aboriginal people – making an impact indeed.
“I don’t think there is enough of the services that know how gambling is closely linked to their business and how it could be closely linked to the service they’re providing the community. We’re trying to provide that link for the services,” he says.
“We’re also trying to get involved in events in communities to try and help raise awareness. They could be local-run events, from touch football carnivals, golf days, women’s events, men’s groups, elders’ dinners and luncheons, to organising events ourselves and trying to create awareness by getting involved.”
Ashely emphasises that there is help out there for those who need it and the services they provide are safe and non-judgemental. He also points out that there is a real need for more awareness about gambling.
“At the moment in Aboriginal health and mental health we are not talking about gambling, we are talking about financial hardship and poverty, we talk about domestic violence and crime, but no talk of gambling. All I’m trying to do is say to our people and Aboriginal services that they need to include gambling in their work, ask the questions,” he says.
“Aboriginal people in many areas are under-represented in health and we were seeing many with enormous gambling problems not seeking help.
“Don’t be ashamed, it’s not about being ashamed. If you’re going to identify that there is a problem there then it’s OK, you won’t be judged, you won’t be told what you’re doing is wrong. Everyone in this industry just wants to help and we’re not going to judge. It’s just a simple yarn and then we try to put you on the right track.”
Many Aboriginal people with gambling problems either do not identify that gambling has manifested itself into a big problem or are too scared or ashamed to come out. This is why the campaign provides help in a caring and culturally appropriate manner.
“The stigma associated with counselling and problems associated with ringing up a non-Aboriginal service are another barrier that our people face. There are a few things that we have to face before we can address our people, so they can not only begin talking about it and identifying the problem but also seek help,” he says.
“If you need help, call 1800 752 948. At the end of that line you’re talking to an Aboriginal person, to me. But again, it’s not about being ashamed and I’m not going to judge.”
The program, which has seen much success so far, will continue to spread the message over the next three years with $1.8 million State Government-funded money and with help from Responsible Gambling Fund, Office of Liquor Gaming and Racing, and NSW Trade and Investment.