The cultural diversity of Fairfield was at its best last Wednesday 19 May where local agencies hosted a Faith Leaders Forum on Gambling Harm in Fairfield. The forum was a NSW first, where over 18 religious leaders and representatives came together to learn about the devastating impacts gambling has in the wider community.
There were representatives from the: Christian faith including Assyrian, Chaldean, Antiochian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox and Agape International Church Inc; Alvi faith; Buddhist faith from the Cambodian and Lao communities; Islamic faith from the Turkish community; and the Sabean-Mandaean faith.
“Cultural diversity is more than our different food, it is having faith leaders come together to learn and discuss issues facing our whole community such as gambling harm” Rev. Tim Costello, Chief Advocate for Alliance for Gambling Reform during his talk as guest speaker at the forum said.
“As service providers we understand that faith leaders are highly respected and influential to their community members… the event aimed to support religious leaders in understanding the impact of gambling on individuals and the community, as well as share information on local support available for community members impacted. The event also provided opportunity for discussion and questions and explore ways to work together” Marie Saliba, Stakeholder Engagement Manager at CORE Community Services said.
Religious leaders heard from expert counsellors who work with multicultural communities about the support services available, as well as lived experience stories from people impacted by gambling harm. One lived experience speaker from refugee background mentioned “when I arrived in Sydney the first place my brother took me was Fairfield RSL, after my first win, I thought Australia was a great place, you didn’t need to work hard to make money”. His story only went downhill from there, suffering marriage breakdown and becoming estranged from his children. But it was also a story of hope as he stood in front of the room willing to share his story of recovery from the assistance of counselling services, and share his journey with the local community.
‘’This story is unfortunately not uncommon – one of the challenges that the community face, as well as new migrants and refugees is not understanding that the government allows an activity that can be so harmful to be so accessible in our local pubs and hotels, and how highly addictive
poker machines are,” Kate De Costa, NSW Campaigner for the Alliance for Gambling Reform said.
Figures from NSW Liquor and Gaming for July-December 2020 show that about 1.57 million is lost per day in the Fairfield Local Government Area to its 3,861 poker machines. Across NSW this is $20.4 million lost to poker machines per day.
One faith leader who attended was Rev. Fr Younan Dawood from the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. “…the Gambling Forum was highly informative and productive, and I will be sharing this information with other religious leaders and the community…the lived experience stories allowed me to connect to the forum on another level and also motivated me in creating change,” he said.
The event was a collaboration between CORE Community Services, Alliance for Gambling Reform, Assyrian Resource Centre, Multicultural Problem Gambling Service for NSW, NSW Department of Communities and Justice, and NSW Police, Oakdene House Foundation and Fairfield City Council.
This event is one of many events to further raise awareness of the impact of gambling harm and how organisations can play their part to bring change to the issue.
For Gambling Harm support please contact:
Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 for free and confidential support 24/7
Multicultural Problem Gambling Service for NSW for accessible counselling, treatment and support services to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. For referral and enquiries please call 1800 856 800 (business hours) or 1800 858 858 (after hours)
The Gambling Harm Working Party comprises of representatives from CORE Community Services, Alliance for Gambling Reform, Assyrian Resource Centre, Multicultural Problem Gambling Service for NSW, NSW Department of Communities and Justice, NSW Police and Fairfield City Council to initiate and action ways to minimise gambling harm within Fairfield.