• Aunty Geraldine Atkinson. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Aunty Geraldine Atkinson has shared her story of overcoming a gambling addiction in the hope she will inspire others to seek help.
Madeline Hayman-Reber

17 Aug 2018 - 10:22 AM  UPDATED 17 Aug 2018 - 5:35 PM

Bangerang Elder Aunty Geraldine Atkinson is working to educate mob on the psychology behind gambling, hoping to help them through it.

It's an addiction she knows well.

This week during the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation’s biennial conference, Aunty Geraldine shared her story with a captivated audience.

“I always get very nervous about speaking, but it's my passion and I've lived it," Aunty Geraldine told NITV News.

"With addictions and that, you have to get over them and through them, you have to wear it and own it. You have to fess up."

Hailing from Shepparton in North Western Victoria, Aunty Geraldine believes gambling addiction is a huge problem in her community, and she puts it down to the acceptance Indigenous people feel in pokie venues compared to the rest of the town.

But for herself, her gambling addiction started in Feburary 2016 when her son sadly took his own life. He had battled an ice addiction.

"That depressed me, then a couple of months later I tried to commit suicide myself... because I was just that broken about losing my son to his addiction," Aunty Geraldine said.

She applied for her son's superannuation, and ended up receiving about $180,000. It was then that she began to deal with her depression in an unhealthy way.

"That was when it took a turn for the worst. Because of my depression and grieving about losing my son, I couldn't be home because all my memories of him were in the house," Aunty Geraldine explained.

"So I'd find every excuse - I'd be up, dressed, out of that house by 11 o'clock every day. I'd be thinking about what machine I was going to play, it would consume me.

"I could hear the tunes in my head, you know, the winning jingle and the coins flashing, I could visualise it all."

Less than a year later, Aunty Geraldine realised she was broke again, but it was around this time that she found a new work opportunity where she could educate people on the psychology behind gambling.

"I applied for a job as the community engagement and therapeutic officer at Rumbalara Aboriginal Co-operative, which is funded by Gamblers Help, and I can truly say that job helped me turn my life around," she said.

"Through that role it just educated me, and taught me all these things, and that there is help. You know, there is. A problem shared, is a problem halved."

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 of Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

To seek help with a gambling addiction for yourself or a loved one, you can call Gamber's Help on 1800 858 858, or visit their website.

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