Gambling support for NSW’s culturally diverse communities now expanded to reach more people

The Western Sydney Local Health District is now working with GambleAware to step up counselling and support services for people experiencing gambling harm across NSW’s culturally diverse communities.

A man is pictured playing on poker machines in a Sydney club.

A man is pictured playing on poker machines in a Sydney club. Source: AAP

People from New South Wales' culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities experiencing gambling harm can now access greater levels of support, after the expansion of a program aimed at ensuring services are “accessible to everybody”.

The Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) has now teamed up with GambleAware - a NSW government counselling service run by the Office of Responsible Gambling - to expand the language offerings and culturally specific support services available to CALD gamblers.

Office of Responsible Gambling director Natalie Wright said while GambleAware has been providing , the new partnership will take support options to the next level.

“What this service will be able to do is provide those services in any language. What it does is make the service accessible to everybody,” she said.


The WSLHD’s Transcultural Mental Health Centre (TMHC) has been tasked with upskilling existing counsellors around cultural competency and how to deliver services to different cultures, as well as stepping in to provide in-language support themselves where gaps occur.

“There are some very different attitudes and beliefs about gambling throughout different cultures and it's really important when support is being provided, that it is being provided in an appropriate way,” Ms Wright said.

Research by the Australian Gambling Research Centre shows while CALD communities tend to gamble less than the general population, when they do, they may be more likely to experience problems. 

Migration stressors, beliefs about luck and chance, issues around stigma and shame, and lower rates of seeking treatment can all combine to generate higher levels of gambling harm.

“While we know around one per cent of the general population is impacted by gambling harm, of those people that are problem gamblers, around 20 per cent of those are from CALD backgrounds,” Ms Wright said.

“It's really important that services are provided to everybody in NSW, as we've got really high proportions of multicultural communities.”

Research has also found when professional gambling support is sought, people from CALD backgrounds prefer to communicate in their own language with someone who understands their culture. 

“Our goal is to ensure that anyone who needs help can speak to someone in the language they are most comfortable with, and who understands both their culture and community,” WSLHD chief executive Graeme Loy said.

TMHC manager Maria Cassaniti said generic gambling support has not always translated into the best outcomes for people from CALD communities.

“Understanding the client's cultural context is very essential,” she said.

People in Australia from CALD backgrounds have previously spoken to SBS News and .

Gamblers across NSW lost $2.17 billion to pokies machines in clubs between June and November 2020 after the first COVID-19 lockdowns lifted, the ABC reported last year, with those in the culturally diverse area of western Sydney losing the most.

Pokies profits in the Fairfield local government area were $197 million, while in Canterbury-Bankstown they were $187 million. Profits in Blacktown and Penrith also increased by 16 and 11 per cent respectively from the same time in 2019. 

Each of those areas are among Sydney's most disadvantaged and ethnically diverse, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Ms Cassaniti said NSW and western Sydney were far from the only places in Australia where residents experience gambling harm.

“But what is particular to western Sydney is our diversity, so it's [important] we reach diverse communities, communicate safe messaging around problem gambling, and link them up with support.”

GambleAware is available for anybody in New South Wales. If you speak a language other than English, there are counsellors that can support you. For more information visit the or call 1800 858 858.

4 min read
Published 20 January 2022 at 6:26pm
By Evan Young
Source: SBS News