Gambling figures prompt Mildura forum

MDAS is taking the lead on alarming new figures showing record gambling activity in Mildura.

Alarming new figures showing record gambling activity in Mildura have prompted the region’s key Koori organisation to take the lead on organising an open community forum on the issue on Thursday night.
The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation data shows Mildura residents lost $25.6 million to gaming machines last financial year, almost $1 million more than the previous year.
The figure is among the highest outside Melbourne, with ¬pokies losses in Mildura for March alone $2.59 million, up $520,000 or 25% for the month. Losses for the first three months of 2018 increased by nearly 20% compared to the same period in 2017.
The figures have prompted Mallee District Aboriginal Services to facilitate discussion through community-wide forums at Mildura and Swan Hill.
The Swan Hill forum was held in July and MDAS is now bringing together experts from the Responsible Gambling Foundation for a community forum at Mildura on August 23.
MDAS Social and Emotional Wellbeing team leader Darlene Thomas said the innovative guest speakers booked for the event were aimed at breaking down community barriers on tackling gambling harm.
“This is not an Aboriginal problem, it’s a community-wide issue – but these latest figures are scary,” said Ms Thomas.
“This problem has been steadily coming more and more onto our radar throughout this year and speaking with other community organisations, we are all noticing the same trends,” she said
“We can’t just keep managing the fallout the gambling harm brings to the community – we need to lift the lid on this issue by talking about it and helping those affected to identify the problem and get support.
“We’re hoping these forums will be the starting point for the community and individuals to respond and begin to take action.”
It’s not the first time MDAS has led the way on important social and community issues.  In 2013, a MDAS community-wide forum on the growing problem of methamphetamine (ice) in Mildura was the forerunner for a series of events, which culminated in the community-driven Project Ice.
The highlight of the gambling forum will be innovative and challenging guest speakers aimed at prompting discussion and breaking down barriers around gambling harm.
The Brothers for Recovery are two men who tell their raw and empowering stories of overcoming addiction at school sessions and community events across the country.
“This approach hasn’t been tried before around gambling in Mildura, but we haven’t been in this place before,” Ms Thomas said.
“We’re hoping to start discussions within families and within community and our aim is for the forum to be a catalyst for lifting the lid on the harm gambling is having,” she said.
Everyone is welcome to the MDAS Gambling Forum. It will be held at the MDAS Mildura Community Hall on August 23 from 6.30pm.  Supper is included.
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