Families and gambling: Helping parents and improving outcomes for children

Content type
Event date

14 October 2020, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm (AEST)


Monya Murch, Rebecca Jenkinson, Christine, Chris Dolman




This webinar was held on Wednesday 14 October 2020.

Clinical work, research and lived experience all show that parents’ gambling behaviour can have unintended impacts on children and others close to them. Referred to as gambling-related harm, these impacts can be physiological, psychological, social and relational.

Practitioners working in health, education and social and community services may encounter families experiencing gambling-related harm alongside a range of other complex circumstances. This can create uncertainty about how to practice in ways that also support the social and emotional wellbeing of children.

Drawing on lived experiences of gambling-related harm and the expertise of professionals working with families and children, this webinar explored:

  • the links between gambling-related harm and other adversities
  • the adverse impacts of shame, stigma and stereotypes associated with gambling-related harm on parents, their parenting, and their children’s social and emotional wellbeing
  • how practitioners can support parents in ways that offer an alternative to shame and stigma to further improve outcomes for them and their children.

This webinar will interest professionals working with parents in health, education, social and community service settings where gambling adversely affects their parenting and their children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

This webinar is co-produced by CFCA and Emerging Minds in a series focusing on children’s mental health. They are working together as part of the Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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Audio transcript (edited)

MR DOLMAN: Hi there. My name's Chris Dolman, and I work with Emerging Minds: The National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, and in today's presentation, we'll be exploring how practitioners can work with families experiencing gambling-related harm in ways that lessen the impact of shame and stigma, and therefore support improved outcomes for children's mental health and wellbeing.

Right from the top, let's have a look at the learning outcomes, so you have an idea of what's ahead for the next hour. So during with webinar, we'll be exploring the links between gambling harm and other adversities faced by families. We'll be looking at the adverse impacts of shame and stigma, and stereotypes associated with gambling harm on parents and on their parenting, and their children's social and emotional wellbeing. And we'll also be looking at how practitioners can support parents in ways that offer an alternative to experiences of shame and stigma to further improve the outcomes for themselves and for their children. So should be a very rich conversation ahead of us.

As we proceed, both Emerging Minds and CFCA recognise and pay respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their ancestors and the elders past, present and emerging from the different First Nations right across this country, from where our presenters and all of you are situated. We acknowledge the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality, ancestry, family and community for the wellbeing of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their families.

This webinar today is the second in a series of webinars focussed on infant and child mental health that will be facilitated in partnership between CFCA and Emerging Minds in 2020/21. Upcoming webinars include addressing homelessness in child-focused practice, working with children and families in rural and remote settings, which will also be of relevance to those of us in urban settings, and also practice approaches to support the mental health and wellbeing of children living with a disability. A month or so ago, we also offered a webinar in this series in relation to responding to family violence in First Nations families to support children's social and emotional wellbeing as well. And you can check that out on the CFCA website, or Emerging Minds' website as well.

Okay, so just a few housekeeping matters. Many of you know, of course, that one of the core functions of CFCA information exchange is to share knowledge. That's what we're on about here today as well. So we'd like to invite everyone to submit questions via the chat box at any time during this webinar, and we'll respond to your questions towards the end of this presentation. Any answered questions may be published, along with your first name, on the CFCA website for a response from our presenters today. So please let us know if you don't want your question or your first name published on our website. And we'd also really welcome you continuing the conversation we begin here today. So we've set up a forum on the CFCA website where you can discuss some of the ideas and issues raised and submit additional questions as well, and we'll send you a link to that forum at the end of today's presentation.

As you leave the webinar today as well, there'll be a short survey that will open in a new window, and we'd really appreciate your feedback about today's webinar. That'll help us get better at what we do. So please remember that this webinar is being recorded, and the audio and transcript and slides will be available on the CFCA website and the CFCA YouTube channel. In fact, the slides are also available as a PDF document already, under the handouts section on the right-hand side of your screen.

Okay, so now I'm really pleased to be able to introduce our presenters today: Monya Murch, Rebecca Jenkinson and Christine. And I'm just going to ask them briefly to say a bit about what it is that really has captured their interest in this area. And Rebecca, perhaps if I could start with you. Firstly, welcome. And in your role at the Australian Gambling Research Centre, you know, what is it that continues to interest you and draw you to this area of research?

MS JENKINSON: Thanks so much, Chris. And thanks for inviting me along today. Look, my background is really in public health research, and over the years I've had a particular interest in young people's health behaviours. Prior to coming to the gambling field, my research mostly focussed on trying to improve understanding of patterns of alcohol and illicit drug use and related harms in Australia, as well as I've done some work in the sexual health and infectious diseases spaces. But I think the thing is not only do I find these fields of work really fascinating in terms of just trying to better understand people's engagement in these behaviours and how it might be impacting their health and wellbeing and other outcomes, but I think one of the things that really draws me to this work is I really love seeing how our research can be translated into practice or policy responses or changes, to really help improve people's health and wellbeing.

MR DOLMAN: Yeah, terrific. Thanks, Rebecca. Really looking forward to what you have to share with us today in relation to some of that research. And I guess that's what we're all interested in as well, isn't it? What you've discovered through the research, as well as its implication for us, whether we're practitioners or in other influential positions in organisations or government, so yeah, terrific. Thank you very much for that. Monya, what about you, in terms of in your work as a practitioner in this field, what is it that has continued to sort of draw you and interest you and yeah, bring you energy for this work?

MS MURCH: Hey, afternoon, and lovely to be here, Chris. Looking at my experience over the last decade, what has been really interesting to continue to explore if very much the shift in our field when we talk about gambling, and making it about people, and also opening up conversations around the impact on children and families, in particular younger children, which wasn't present, you know, time ago. So really the diversity and the depth of the work is something that keeps me, and the challenges as well, keep me and continue to keep me interested.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you. When you say making it more about people, more so that rather than something else? Like what was the - what shift have you noticed? Yeah.

MS MURCH: Yeah. Look, when I very first started, a lot of the conversations were very much around odds, and losing and winning and money and odds, and there was - it was my sense, my perception, that a lot of conversations were actually missing the human component.


MS MURCH: Or, you know, really the impact on people in particular. And giving voices to people.

MR DOLMAN: Great. Thank you for that. Look forward to hearing about those and other discoveries you've made in your practice, so thank you. And Christine, welcome to you, as consumer advocate. So thank you for your time. Like what is it that has - how come you've decided to sort of bring your voice to these conversations?

CHRISTINE: Thank you, Chris. Grateful for this opportunity here today, as a consumer voice speaker, and as a parent, and a person that was a troubled gambler, that I can come here today and talk about the issues of my gambling, and how it affected myself and my children. And also the healing part of it as well, which is so, so important, that part of the being a consumer voice speaker is to come out and tell of my story, I'm one of them, where - my experiences to help people understand that gambling is not only about losing money, but it's about mental health, how it affects not only the person that's gambling but their families, especially their children, and the mental health and gambling actually go hand in hand.

MR DOLMAN: Thanks, Christine, yeah, really looking forward to hearing both aspects of that, you know, both what you've learnt through hard-won experience, I guess, in terms of the impacts and effects of gambling on families, on parenting and children, as well as ways through that as well. So yeah, thanks so much, in anticipation, for your time today. Okay, so yeah, please, everyone, join me in giving our presenters a very warm virtual welcome. And I'd now like to hand over to Rebecca, who's going to continue this presentation. So thanks very much, Rebecca.

MS JENKINSON: Thanks, Chris. If we could move to the next slide, please. Thank you. So I'm going to start by presenting some data on gambling participation in Australia. So the findings that I've presented here are from Wave 18 of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, so the HILDA Survey. HILDA is a longitudinal study of Australian households that commenced in 2001. So in Wave 18, which was conducted in 2018, it was established that around 6.5 million Australian adults, or around 39 per cent of us, gambled in a typical month. So not just the occasional or one-off bet on the Melbourne Cup, this is gambling on one or more products at least monthly, which is often defined as regular gambling.

So if we look at the figure here, and this is among people who gamble on a regular basis, we can see that the main products that they really report spending money on were lottery or lottery-type products, at 77 per cent. That's followed by poker machines at around one in five of people who gamble on a regular basis, followed by scratchies, race betting and sports betting. So in this slide we've included some data - this is expenditure data now, and I just wanted to highlight - so if you look at the bar chart first on the left - just really highlight that Australians lose around 24 to 25 billion dollars a year on gambling. With half of that, so around $12.5 billion, being lost on the pokies. After pokies, the products that we lose most of the money on are casino games, race betting and sports betting.

So if we now look at what this means kind of per person, so if we move to the figure on the right - and again, this is HILDA data that we've presented here - on a per capita basis, Australians actually lose far and away the most in the world. For every adult in Australia, estimates suggest we lose around $530 a year. But if we look at losses just among people who gamble in a typical month, that increases to around $1600 per year. So if we move now to looking at gambling-related problems in the community, and just here we're starting with some estimates of how many individuals might be affected.

So first, again, looking at some HILDA estimates, and findings from that study suggest that around 1.3 million Australian adults, or around 8 per cent of us, have experienced one or more gambling-related problems in 2018. And that might include things like the gambling had caused them health problems, including stress or anxiety, or caused financial problems for them or their household. In our research that we actually released yesterday, looking at gambling in Australia during COVID, we found that among people who gambled regularly, around four in five, or around 79 per cent, would be classified as being at risk of or already experiencing some gambling-related problems, and that's looking at the past 12 months. In that study, we found that males were more likely than females to be classified as at risk.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you. Actually, Rebecca, we've had a question come through about the impact of COVID on gambling. And you mention some research that was released yesterday, but although online gambling is an option, has the closure of venues in some states impacted on the extent of gambling? Was your research focussed on that at all? Do you have any reflection around that?

MS JENKINSON: Yeah, so what we found was that even with the temporary closure of pokes venues and casinos in - well, they were closed in all jurisdictions for a period, but some jurisdictions have obviously opened up now. I'm in Victoria and venues haven't opened here yet. But what we found was that even with the closure of all of those venues, overall we saw that people were gambling more often during COVID. And that was really driven by young men, aged 18 to 34, who were gambling online. So they were gambling on horse and greyhound racing, and the sports that resumed, so the AFL and the NRL, for example.

So we did see - and participants who used pokies, for example, reported that they had found - they took the opportunity to take a break from gambling, but in the jurisdictions where venues had opened up again, some participants reported that they had already returned to gambling on the pokies and that they were gambling at pre‑COVID levels already, and that was having negative impacts on them again, both on their finances but also on their health and wellbeing.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you for that. Yes, thank you.

MS JENKINSON: Thanks, Chris. So if we move now to looking at types of gambling-related problems and harms, and these can be experienced, obviously, on a spectrum, so ranging from minor negative experiences to reaching crisis point. The problems can not only affect individuals who might be gambling, but also the people around them. So some research conducted by some of our colleagues at Central Queensland University found that a person experiencing problem gambling can affect up to six other people around them, moderate risk gambling can affect up to three other, and low-risk gambling can affect up to one other person.

Over the next few slides, I'll just describe some of the different types of harms that people might experience. And starting here with financial harms, and this is probably the first type of harm that many of us think about when we think about gambling. And the types of things people might experience in terms of financial harms include things like reduced spending on essential or recreational activities, they're experiencing an increase in debt or they're borrowing more money, having things like secret bank accounts, loans or credit cards, unpaid bills and possible bankruptcy, selling items to fund their gambling, and money or assets disappearing.

Another type of harm that people might experience is emotional and psychological distress, which might include things like moodiness or unexplained anger, stress, and also feelings of failure or regret, distress, worthlessness and shame.

MR DOLMAN: Yes, certainly shame is something we'll be hearing more from Monya about in terms of responding to shame from practitioners in the webinar. So thanks, Rebecca. There's other gambling-related harms you're wanting to speak to as well?

MS JENKINSON: Yeah, so impacts on health are also commonly experienced by people. This might include things like stress-related illnesses or other things that might impact our physical health, like reduced sleep, headaches, those sorts of things. Anxiety and depression are also commonly reported, especially among people who might be experiencing higher levels of problem gambling. And some people who might be particularly distressed or at risk might be having suicidal thoughts or engaging in self-harm.

Some of the other things that might be less common but can still have big impacts on individuals and families who experience them are harms related work or study. So including things like, you know, absenteeism, reduced performance, conflict at work, and job losses. And legal, so the types of things might often be described as crimes of opportunity, such as theft and fraud.

Finally, relationship harms. And I've left this for last because of what I'd like to present next, but research has found that relationship harm is the most common type of harm from gambling. So individuals who gamble and the people around them might experience things like decreased contact with friends or avoiding social activity, neglecting their responsibilities within relationships, hiding things, especially their gambling, and secretiveness about activities that they're engaging in. And obviously with all of these things, potentially leading to conflicts within relationships.

Gambling can also be associated with or exacerbate other relationship harms in serious ways. So with things like controlling or manipulative behaviour, emotional, economic and physical abuse as well being reported. And finally, as I mentioned, other people or loved ones of a person who might be experiencing gambling-related problems might also be affected. For example, children and other family members may experience a loss of trust in their loved one, or feel hurt or afraid, forgotten, ashamed or angry. And they themselves experience anxiety or depression as well.

MR DOLMAN: Yes, thanks Rebecca, I appreciate you mapping out these impacts, because no matter what the domain of life that's impacted, where children are in families, it obviously ripples onto them, doesn't it? It creates - contributes to the context in which children are living and having to find a way through these things, and are in turn affected by that. So thank you for mapping those out. You've got a few other voices of people affected by gambling.

MS JENKINSON: I do. I thought it might be nice to actually share some quotes from people who have participated in some of our research, and they've shared their stories with us. So in this slide, I've included some quotes from our Gambling During COVID survey that was released yesterday - and please - you'll find that on our website if you're interested - where people were describing how gambling might have affected their relationships.

So I'll just read out the quotes. 'For 20-odd years since the early nineties in Victoria, my wife and I developed a pokies habit that cost us up to a couple of hundred thousand dollars that we could ill afford, causing considerable damage to relationships, lifestyle and self-esteem. My partner is a chronic gambler, and the break from pokies almost cured her, but she got one whiff and was back on them again, to the point it almost broke our relationship.'

So these are some quotes now from an ANROWS-funded study that we collaborated on, and it was led by Professor Nerilee Hing at Central Queensland University, and this was a study that was exploring the relationship between gambling and intimate partner violence against women, and some quotes here, and these quotes are from practitioners.

'So you get the partner being forced to sign up for loans or the gambling partner fraudulently taking out loans in the partner's name or using joint assets. You just see a lot of financial violence when it comes to gambling.' 'She had 40 years of domestic violence, and no one reported and acted on behalf of her, and she kept it a secret. Her husband is a gambler. He still gambles, and she got into gambling herself due to loneliness and isolation and poor mental health.'

So the next - the quotes over the next couple of slides come from our Gambling During COVID study again, and I just wanted to start by looking at some of the intergenerational impacts and how participants often describe gambling normalisation with families and peer groups. 'So my husband was a terrible gambler who almost cost us our marriage. I gave him an ultimatum. Now my son is even worse, and I hate it. I've tried to help him, to no avail. I absolutely hate gambling.' 'Gambling was very normalised. My parents routinely gambled and encouraged me to gamble from a young age, but with my own children I'm helping them to understand it is not entirely healthy.' 'It was a thing that I was exposed to quite early by relatives and friends.'

MR DOLMAN: Thanks, Rebecca. Yeah, actually, those quotes just had me thinking a bit about the steps that people take as parents, at times, to perhaps ensure that some of the effects of gambling that they experienced as children, that this is not passed on to their own children. Their own children have different understandings as well. Kind of stands out to me from these quotes.

MS JENKINSON: That's right. This last slide here really just builds on the theme of normalisation, I guess, but looking at it more in terms of gambling and how it's marketed in Australia and participants really describing the impacts of that on children and young people. 'Gambling is marketed everywhere, and it's being normalised among children at young ages.' 'Far too much advertising. It encourages young children to gamble.' 'As a former teacher, it's a worry when 10 year old children talk about the odds of an AFL team winning a match or a batsman making a hundred in cricket.' 'Gambling is definitely promoted as a rite of passage for teenagers or something to do with friends.'

So just briefly to summarise this part of the presentation before I hand back to Chris and the other speakers, findings from some research - and this is HILDA data here. It's around 39 per cent of Australian adults gamble in a typical month, and that really makes us the largest per capita gamblers in the world. As we've said, gambling can be associated with a range of diverse harms, including financial harms, health-related harms, impacts on work and study, and relationship harms, as we've shown. Close family members, including partners and children, are often impacted by other people's gambling behaviours, as, Chris, you've just touched on as well.

In terms of our research and where we see some opportunities to reduce harm, certainly, it's around tighter regulation of the gambling industry. It's something we really need to see, but also - and hopefully webinars like this. So increasing public and professional awareness of the types of gambling-related harms that individuals and families might experience and how to respond. Just to acknowledge, really, that I'm extremely grateful to the people who participate in our research for both their generosity of time but for sharing their really important stories with us. Here's just some further reading if people are interested. Some of the findings I've presented today come from this literature. Thanks, Chris. I'll hand back to you now.

MR DOLMAN: Thanks, Rebecca, for your contribution today. There's been a number of questions, actually, that have come in for you, and we'll try to get to some of those towards the end of the webinar, but also, for those that have put those forward, we will be addressing them on the forum as well. So thanks very much, Bec. Really interesting to set the scene and help our understanding, actually, of the prevalence of gambling and its harms in Australia. So thank you for that.

MS JENKINSON: Thanks, Chris.

MR DOLMAN: So I'd now like to hand over to Monya, who's going to speak a bit about lessening the impact of shame and stereotypes and adverse experiences on children and families as well. So welcome again, Monya, and thank you.

MS MURCH: Thank you, Chris. So we will spend a little bit of time just looking at the impact of gambling harm on relationships and children. So when we look at gambling harm, obviously, gambling doesn't occur in isolation. So we have to really be aware of what's happening within the family context and what are the challenges that parents are already encountering. So families accessing our services present with experiences of distress, anxiety, depression, and we know that this has a negative impact on the quality of the relationship and possible emotional and social psychological consequences, which can be negative for the children.

So looking at the environment - and it's very important to remember, in particular when we consider younger children or infants, that our body experiences our environment even before we can put words to it. So if we bring gambling harm into a context of a family environment where the environment is volatile, where there is conflict, where there is distress, where there is lack of communication, where emotional needs are not met, well, then that can bring up a lot of overwhelm for children.

Obviously, then there would be a sense of a lack of safety and felt anxiety rather than a safe base from which the child can then go ahead and explore the environment and explore also what's happening for them emotionally and their own growth. What I wanted also before we continue to look at the impact on children and the relationship with the parents, is also the awareness of new products, actually, and environments that have been introduced when it comes to gambling, which are attracting and becoming more appealing and targeting, possibly, women and children in a way that wasn't happening before, and this is very important for us working with families to keep in mind that that could be also the case.

So in terms, again, of the relationship, we can have parents that obviously are becoming less emotionally available, and they're also experiencing a sense of being inadequate, a sense of - you know, a diminished, a decreased sense of self-worth, and very often there will be also self-loathing. So how does that translate in allowing a child to develop, you know, their own emotional competence? Well, then you can bring up (indistinct) as I was saying before, you know, the child feeling met and supported when needed.

There is a sense of being abandoned, or, you know, cues are misread, if read at all, and the first impact on a child what can be noticed is anxiousness, sleep patterns which are not supportive, or there could be poor sleep patterns (indistinct) and obviously on the long term we can have, again, negative impacts on the social, emotional and psychological development of the child.

So I'd like to continue again by - you know, in terms of when it comes to younger families, we really want to be mindful and aware that for a younger family there will be, obviously, more challenges and more demands. You know, they're getting to know a new human being, and we really need to acknowledge their distress because it is a period in a young family's life where gambling actually could provide seemingly a way out of distress. So it's always great to check in with families when, you know, they are experiencing - they've living such a sensitive new period of their lives.

Here what I would like to highlight again is how important it is to consider that both parents contribute, directly or indirectly, to the development of the child, and regardless if there's one person within the couple that is engaging into gambling, the impact obviously will be also on the other person and will have an impact on the quality of relationship for both people.

So parents' experiences are very important when we look at how we support parents and how we support not only the impact that gambling harm is having on the family but also the relationship with children because positive and negative past experiences do play a part in the way that parents are able to be there for themselves and able to process their own emotional states and also able to reach out for help. As we know, that becomes also really a foundation in terms of having children that will be able themselves to reach out, ask for help and knowing that there will be a hand there to hold them.

So what happens in our parents' minds or what happens in parents' minds affects the way that a parent will respond to a child, and a lack of safety obviously will bring up a sense of anxiety, fear and aloneness, and the caregiver qualities are really crucial for that child affective competence and, again, a sense of wanting to explore the world, the environment and their own feelings. So again we return to different domains of harm.

So we go to the next couple of slides, really, and very briefly I wanted to introduce grief and loss - so we go to the next slide - before we go into shame. So grief and loss is really important, again, in terms of that emotional availability of parents because if the parent is preoccupied - they don't necessarily need to be physically absent. Obviously, they could be physically absent, but, you know, it's really that emotional loss.

It's the emotional absence, and so really not providing the child with co-regulation and with a presence that makes them feel safe. Then there is a loss of connection and intimacy not only for the couple but also for the child or children. There is, obviously, a loss of security and a sense of betrayal as well, as we lose trust in our primary caregivers. Yes.

MR DOLMAN: Do you notice in your work with parents that they are noticing these losses at the time, or, you know, that it's apparent to them, or is it something more they notice when they look back, or - do you have any reflections around that, Monya?

MS MURCH: Yeah. Look, it's very different. That's what comes to mind. You know, my experience is that some parents actually - part of the hurt and the shame will be very much, you know, noticing the - - -


MS MURCH: - - - changes in the child behaviour and changes in how they would like to be but they're not, you know, and that will fit into the shame dynamic and that embodiment of shame for the parent, but it's not always so. So that will be, for some parents, something that will happen later on, reflecting on the consequences of behaviour.

MR DOLMAN: Is that part of what you do, or - - -

MS MURCH: Yes. Yeah.

MR DOLMAN: In some sense - - -

MS MURCH: Yeah, supporting.

MR DOLMAN: - - - to sort of help them - yeah. Sorry.

MS MURCH: Yeah. Supporting, exploring and considering. So becoming more reflective - - -


MS MURCH: - - - in terms of relationship with their children.

MR DOLMAN: Yeah. Thank you.

MS MURCH: Okay. So the loss also of support, of a network, is also really, really important because, as we know, if there is a volatile environment or an environment which is not as supportive as it could be, then it will be lovely for children to have a connection to other people that could provide a sense of safety and nurturing, but, of course, as things intensify for the family, they tend to disconnect also from society, from community, from family members, and that becomes really isolating for the children.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you, Monya. Christine, was that something you'd like to sort of reflect on, this sort of loss of support networks or connections in relationships as a result of gambling harm in families?

CHRISTINE: Yes. Thank you. There is such an impact, as a gambler, of feeling the shame, a loss of the respect that you have from your children especially, having to come home after gambling and losing money, and you spoke about feeling absent as well, Monya, and that's certainly something I have experienced, where you're there in front of your children, they're talking to you, but your mind is on what you have actually done and the shame of it all, and you're looking at your own children with utter disgust with yourself and the shame of what you've done. So you're there in front of them, but you're not there. That's that absent feel.

MR DOLMAN: And this is a shame that kind of accompanies you?

CHRISTINE: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR DOLMAN: Right. Yeah.

CHRISTINE: That's a huge, huge thing, and it's something that - it takes a real long time, with the therapy, to come and understand about that shame and how to get rid of it - - -


CHRISTINE: - - - I suppose, in a sense, because it's very debilitating.

MR DOLMAN: Because it accompanies you even when you're seeking out services, I guess, and other support. It's kind of with you as you start to speak with people, practitioners like Monya and others, I guess.

CHRISTINE: Yes. Yes, that's right, and one of the hardest things I found when I started therapy was to really, 'How much do I open up with my therapist here?' And it was, you know, 'I don't want my therapist to think any less of me.' You know, I started - it took a while to really open up, and I would find that I'd be holding onto things 'cause I still felt such shame, but, you know, once you start to open up and you get so emotional, and it's so draining, but it's also a relief.

MR DOLMAN: Right. Thanks. I know shame has been an interest of yours, Monya, in terms of responding to shame.

MS MURCH: Yeah. Yep.

MR DOLMAN: The kind of shame that Christine's been describing. Yeah. There's more you'd like to say about that.

MS MURCH: Thank you, Christine. That's so true in terms of, you know, what so many people experience, but we don't often talk about it, and that's why my next slide is Let's Talk about Shame. We don't speak enough about shame. Shame doesn't come up often in conversation very openly. So it is important for us to be aware that chronic shame could be present - and very often it is present - when we look at why people are not accessing services, as also (indistinct) sharing with us. There is a sense that people are not deserving.

You know, if there is shame, shame is saying, 'I don't deserve asking for help,' and, also, asking for help can bring up shame in itself because it means, 'I'm actually - I'm not good enough, and I should be better.' So this is what I refer to as a narrative of shame. It's important to acknowledge the relational nature of shame and how painful it can be as an interpersonal emotion, but also, going back to the narrative, very much that internalised - that shame belief that we are - you know, someone is a bad person, that, 'Something is wrong with me,' and that things will never get better.

So shame freezes people in this narrative, in these beliefs, and this also becomes embodied, and working with people really recognising shame in the physiological aspect of shame as well, which makes a lot of sense if we think in terms of gambling harm and gambling patterns of behaviour, where shame wants us to become small, to shrink, to hide, to escape. So we're really escaping. You want to shrink from experiences that are becoming too painful, and those experiences are very much, as I said before, internalised. And very often - going back also referring to children and then you know how can we support the parent to work and processing, so shame in a way (indistinct) the parenting is now shame-based. We are now shaming a child because he's feeling vulnerable because he's feeling afraid you know. So really becoming open to stay with our children's strong emotions with the big feelings or the big emotions, rather than you know shutting down a child or telling them you know maybe to grow up or not whinge or don't be pathetic, you know and that becomes very much conversations that our parents may have with themselves when they feel themselves vulnerable or hurt, yeah.

MR DOLMAN: We have had a question - a number of questions actually but one that's caught my attention in relation to what you're just saying, is in relation to you know what would you suggest to problem gamblers, people that have - gambling has taken up a problematic space in their life who you know experience overwhelming thoughts and feelings of shame. I guess they can get quite prominent in people's lives as you were saying, Christine. Like, how is it that people deal with these? Is that a question you'd like to respond to now or later?

MS MURCH: Well it is a good question and I'm not sure if - Christine, would you like to share something in your experience or?

CHRISTINE: Yes, of course, I'd really like that. The shame, well it's just so huge, so debilitating and as I was saying you know going to therapy and having to open up and talk about the impact of feeling as a lesser parent and the hopelessness. It's very, very difficult to open up in the beginning but with help with a therapist, it did take a while. But it's just - even now you know I find it really difficult because you still fall back into that feeling of a little bit of shame because you've, you know all the things that you've done and you have to talk about it, and seeing the looks on - I still remember the looks on my children's faces when they found out that I was gambling.

MR DOLMAN: Yes, yes. I think that'll be something we can talk more about as we proceed with the webinar as well, yes.

MS MURCH: Yeah, yeah, beautiful, okay. So, once you know - something I wanted to ask today is very much the shame also freezes us into unhelpful places but they're very alone places as well, so one way to start allowing people to move out of those places which are unhelpful is reminding them that they're not alone. So you know relationally-processing emotions becomes part of the healing.


MS MURCH: If that - in a way start answering the question how you know together with someone we can start working what's difficult rather than doing it on our own, which is also part of what the co-regulation provides to - - -

MR DOLMAN: Do you think people understanding that has an effect on the shame even? Like to actually know that they're not alone, that somehow does something to the experience of shame, do you think?

MS MURCH: It's working, working on those challenging or difficult emotion together yes,

MR DOLMAN: Right thank you. And do you also link shame to stereotypes and stigma as well?

MS MURCH: Okay, yes, so - and we will look also later on you know in terms of working with people, how to repair shame. Very briefly on stereotype and stigma, stereotypes, what I would like to you know to consider is the possibility that stereotypes can be obviously negative or positive, however, they're generalised assumptions and they're often inaccurate. So it becomes really important to challenge stereotypes when they come in the room and not to encourage a stereotype because then we will be able to see the person, to connect to the person, to understand the context and to actually become truly supportive of the (indistinct) on that person in their context rather than on a stereotype presenting. Stigma and shame, I see them as going really, going hand in hand because also stigma is about a mark, is about a mark of disgrace, it's about not only being rejected but like shame, there is a suggestion that we are not belonging, so is that being shunned away, is that being not wanted, not loved, that then becomes really hurtful to be in a situation where you know yeah there's no sense of belonging anymore and as human beings that becomes really important.

MR DOLMAN: We've actually had a question come through - - -


MR DOLMAN: - - - about language actually, and as you've highlighted on that slide there, the stereotypes, which I guess are linked to language aren't they?

MS MURCH: Yeah, yeah.

MR DOLMAN: In relation to these terms like problem gamblers, gambler addict, these kinds of things.


MR DOLMAN: Which - they're popular terms and readily available to us I guess when we seek to describe people. Christine and Monya, are there other kinds of descriptions that can be used in a way that doesn't further perpetuate stigma and stereotypes? I guess I'm asking - - -

MS MURCH: Yes, yes, yeah.

MR DOLMAN: - - - what sort of language, as the participant is asking, what sort of language is more (indistinct)?

MS MURCH: Excellent question and when it comes to language again there are different people you know having different opinions about it. One of the thing that I'm really keen is about the etymology of a word, so when we describe someone as an 'addict' what comes up straight away for me in this instance is very much, you know - does that tell us nothing about a person? Because again you know if I had to be introduced to someone, here is an addict, I actually - it will not tell me anything about a person in front of me. So in that way I see it again as coming in the way of getting to know the person and being able to support and respond to the person in what they need at that point in time.

MR DOLMAN: Right yeah. So I guess in the same way, 'problem gambler' doesn't tell you anything about the person either, does it? Yeah.

MS MURCH: And in a way also makes the problem as of the individual, when it is that there could be other you know other dynamics, other harms as we were talking about, that play a big part in someone's pattern of behaviour that is not helpful.

MR DOLMAN: Christine, a question without notice around that.


MR DOLMAN: Do you have reflections around that? Around the language used and what's - - -

CHRISTINE: Yes I do. Those labels are so - even more, harmful to a gambler because it's so important not - as Monya says, not to see them as that word like a gambler, problem gambler or addict, because there's more to them. I know personally, there's more to me. You know, I'm not a gambler, I wasn't a gambler, I went there to escape all my problems and the loneliness and I didn't know where else to go. So it's not about wanting to go there and lose that money, and plus I think when people were saying to me like a parent would say to me, "Ah you're a gambler. You're worthless,' you're this - and it's so debilitating and I got to that stage because of things that happened in my life and that's the important part.

MR DOLMAN: Okay, so sort of the circumstances that were surrounding it, yeah.

CHRISTINE: Absolutely.

MR DOLMAN: And I guess, and those kind of descriptions did they in turn impact how you were with your children for example, and then ultimately on their well-being. Is that part of what's important here as well, to take care because of the effects of these labels and how they (indistinct) on children as well?

CHRISTINE: Yes, yes it does. As a parent and going to gamble my children knew about it eventually, about my gambling and I felt that - well I could really feel that the loss of trust and the way they looked at me, and I didn't feel like a good parent anymore. And which of course then afterwards I wouldn't be able to have that confidence in parenting them properly.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you, Christine, yeah.

MS MURCH: So to continue (indistinct) shame dynamics and also repair, you know shame is meant to be repaired, and how to support parents and children and so if we just look again you know in terms of what shame, anxiety, and stigma do is that they - they just build really secrecy around a lot of dynamics and things that are happening for the family. And we want those walls, you know that are built up to protect a family, in a way to start lowering and allow new experiences to take and to you know, new experiences for the family and for the parents. And to do so we want parents to feel safe obviously in the work that you're doing. So as I mentioned before, co-regulation is really important because co-regulation again brings us back, not only in the work that we do with a child but also with the parent themselves, to a sense that they're not alone. And I would like to very briefly introduce Dan Hughes' a concept of intersubjective stance or you know they're really being really in a reciprocal intention and that openness to be there with another and being prepared to be influencing but also influenced by the other person. So it becomes a very open conversation where we are - we value the person in front of us but we allow also the person to have a sense of their own value and to be encouraged as they share into himself you know being honest, transparent, and also appreciating the courage of the person.

MR DOLMAN: And this is what you sometimes refer to as 'repair'? Is that right?

MS MURCH: Yes, yeah. Yes, it's really very much you know when we look at the dynamic of shame and shame's something that keeps us stuck into an awful place is then - and also as we've seen before there is a sense of being lesser than and (indistinct) to have to - not to meet demands of other people. It becomes important to allow space where the person has space to be, has space to explore, and to co-create different - a new experience so the possibility of new experiences for the person as well. In that, it also becomes important to be aware of the physiology and the narrative as shared before that shame, that embodiment of shame presents as well, with the person.

So, looking at then what it means to work with families, they're experiencing gambling, and that means very much to be able to work in a way which is family-sensitive that is assuring a child's safety but also to be able to provide resources and activities, to also check that a family has access to resources and activities and if not, then how can we support that access? Because very often, you know, it is a challenge in itself for some families to be able to access resources as required. And the importance really to reflect back so what co-regulation does is providing a safe space for the parent, or parents, to be seen and then in a safe space they can start reflecting themselves and explore their own emotions, which is then - is something that has a ripple effect on the children as well, and their interaction with their own children. And this gives a sense of purpose or it can you know renew the sense of purpose for the person. And in particular, allows the person to feel their relationships are becoming more meaningful as well, as they start experiencing themselves differently then there is a possibility of different relationships with others as well.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you, Monya. Christine, would you like to add to that in terms of the place of that sense of renewed or a new sense of purpose and sense of being, values and strengths of yours coming to the 160101 to what extent did that play a role for you in the direction you took your life?

CHRISTINE: Yes, going to therapy, starting therapy with a counsellor that really understood me, and listened and I was able to start healing. So when I could start healing, so could my children, ‘cause I was being a better parent then. I learnt that I didn't have to fix everything because I'm not superhuman and as I always wanted to make everything right for them, and I had to learn how to be kind to myself and to give myself time just to me as well so I can be - feel stronger and more confident and then in that way I could be - feel worth again and a better parent and a better communicator as well. So it was important.

MR DOLMAN: Yes thank you.

CHRISTINE: That therapy.

MR DOLMAN: Christine, there was a poem that you were keen to share with our webinar participants which I'll bring up now.

CHRISTINE: Yep. Yeah, this is something that I wrote about being hurt and scared and when I was bullied in my life and mentally and physically abused and homelessness, so this is part of that poem that I wrote, 'Wanted to be loved. Relief from my pain came from action, lights, music and dollar coins. Still only, but that drug is so good. Only good for so long. Why am I allowing it? No more action, lights and music. Help came along.'

MR DOLMAN: And what is it that you're really wanting people to sort of understand on account of that verse of that longer poem?

CHRISTINE: Um with that part it was the feeling of I want people to understand that even with that first moment with everything that you have, that pain inside you, that first moment that I sat down on that chair and put that dollar coin in and with that music and the lights and everything, I felt alone but I wasn't alone in that room, and I thought that I could run away from it all, but I found that running away from it isn't the answer, and going there doesn't help with running away, in fact it contributes to so much pain.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you, yeah, Christine, for sharing that poem with us and those reflections. There have been a couple of questions to Rebecca actually that I'd also like to put to you, Rebecca. I'm sure you've got many reflections around what Monya and Christine have been speaking about as well, but there's a question in relation to seniors. In terms of the research during the Covid pandemic, were there less seniors involved and participating in gambling than perhaps at other times? Was this something that was possible to notice through the research or beyond the realm of the research?

MS JENKINSON: We did see some reductions in frequency of gambling and expenditure on gambling among people in the older age groups. So really, yeah what we saw was increases among these young cohorts, so the 18 to 34 year old age group. Particularly young men, and in the older age groups of 35 and up, we did tend to see some decrease in gambling during Covid. There are a few gender differences and some other things but I think most of the people in the older age groups were more often gambling on land-based products so things like the pokies,which obviously closed for a period. So there were some differences in the products that people were gambling on as well. But we did see some reductions in the old age groups during Covid, and in jurisdictions where some land-based venues had opened up again, that's where we started to see the increases again. So people were turning to the pokies.

MR DOLMAN: And did the data include gambling that's undertaking through gaming apps?

MS JENKINSON: We did collect some data, so we found that around a third of the sample played reported - playing video games or electronic games in both time periods, so before Covid and during Covid, and we asked some questions around expenditure on loot boxes and we found that spending on these boxes did go up a bit but it went from $30 in the month before Covid to $40, so that was a significant increase, about $30 to $40 and we did see that people were spending a bit more money and a bit more time on loot boxes, but it wasn't high in this sample. The other thing that wasn't high in this sample were people gambling on online pokies or online poker or online casino games. I think we found that around 6 percent of the whole sample gambled on those online products, and one of the things we were looking for there is were people turning to off shore providers? So those products are provided by companies who aren't regulated in Australia. So that was one of the concerns of the people who regulate, is that are people going to those off shore sites and gambling on those products? And what we found is that it was only around 6 percent of gambling on (indistinct) products.

MR DOLMAN: Right. Someone else has asked the question, are there statistics that link gambling behaviour and suicide.

MS JENKINSON: That's actually a really important area where we need to be doing more work. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare are starting to do some work in that space. It's not - that data isn't recorded in any standard way by the coroners so there's some work being done at different state coroners around these at the moment but we don't have that recorded in any standard way so it's an area of work that really we need to focus some energy because it is really important understanding gambling-related suicide.

MR DOLMAN: Thanks, Rebecca, for that as well. Moving through some other questions that people have submitted, someone's asked about if there are laws about advertising for gambling like there is for smoking and alcohol.

MS JENKINSON: There are some for wagering operators who might advertise particularly around sports betting products and race betting products, there are some rules around the times that those ads can be on TV and you know before the bouts and after the bouts if people are watching live sport. So there are some regulations in place absolutely, but I guess what the people are calling for and participants in our study really called for was kind of increasing the regulation in that space and bringing more restrictions in so that we're not exposed to those ads and promotions in the way that we currently are.

MR DOLMAN: Are they national laws? Do you know, Rebecca, or are they more per jurisdiction - - -

MS JENKINSON: They are. They're national, yeah.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you. A question perhaps for everyone, and the question is, 'Is gambling considered a choice or an aspect of a mental health issue?'

CHRISTINE: Well for myself I didn't want gambling as a choice because I never liked it. I couldn't understand how people that I knew would go and lose - put money in a machine that's gonna make them lose so much. But I did find myself going there, so it wasn't a choice really to go and gamble as such, but just to get away and have a bit of time to myself and not think about all of my problems. So that's where in my poem where I had written about the music, the lights and that really helped me to get lost in that you know - not to think about any of my problems that I was lost over there and that was fine, but yeah it wasn't a choice really to go and gamble. But certainly, it affected my mental health.


CHRISTINE: And those two definitely go hand in hand.

MR DOLMAN: Thanks Christine. Do you have any reflections around that question, Monya?

MS MURCH: Yeah it is actually - no it is a very good question, and again there are different views and opinions in regards to you know what's gambling. I go back to, if we look at gambling as an adaptive or coping mechanism or something, then it is actually not a mental health issue as such, but then you know some people will also ask, 'What is a mental health issue?' So you know the conversation becomes really, really much bigger than I guess anyone is actually at. Although as we know, gambling is also regarded as gambling disorder. So there are so many different opinions at the moment and there is not one answer. I would see it more as a (indistinct)response to situations internal or external that we may not have the resources to respond to as yet.

MR DOLMAN: Thank you. So Monya, there's a question that's come through about you know what are considered some of the drivers of gambling that leads to harm in families? The person puts forward, 'Is it boredom? Temptations? Peer pressure?' I think you've begun to respond to this a bit in the webinar but is there something else you would like to add to that in terms of drivers?

MS MURCH: Yeah, I'm not quite sure I really understand the question - - -

MR DOLMAN: Right okay.

MS MURCH: - - - to be - yeah because we're looking at gambling harm as an unintended consequence of gambling behaviour. And so you know we were looking at what it can be in terms - if we're looking at harm, there is emotional and physical abuse can be possible. Emotional and physical neglect which can be and very often are present. Domestic violence. Then again you know also those can be if you want to look at them as drivers, we know that for some people living in a situation of domestic violence, then a venue can represent a safe place to be. You know so that's why we need to understand it is really - it's actually there are so many layers to you know what drives what and when and for whom. That's why I wanted to make sure that we look at the context not the person, what's happening for them, rather than what's wrong with them. Really what's happening for that person.

And again, going back to the previous question in terms of mental health work, (indistinct) gambling can actually be a survival mechanism. You know, if I'm in a situation where there's so much happened, and it's very difficult for me to survive, and that can provide me as much as sometimes substances and alcohol can do. It can give me a way out of what I don't have resources to respond to.

MR DOLMAN: Really appreciate you emphasizing those aspects, Monya. So critical. And you're nodding along, Christine, as though you're supporting those sentiments from your own experience.

CHRISTINE: Absolutely, yes. Yes absolutely. I do support everything that you've said, Monya, ‘cause you know there are choices you know when you're in so much pain and that you know there's drugs, there's alcohol, there's gambling. I chose - you know I went and gambled.

MR DOLMAN: Yes, and so the importance of practitioners ensuring that they research that context to make sure they're understanding what people are kind of up against, and the circumstances in which the gambling is taking place yeah so thank you, thank you for that. And there has been a question, Rebecca, which I'll direct to you. Has there been any attempt to include a question about finances or gambling in the new MARAM Framework within Victoria, the family violence framework at all?

MS JENKINSON: Thanks Chris, I'm not aware of that framework, the MARAM, but what will be coming out soon, so I was part of an ANROWS‑funded study that was looking at gambling-related domestic violence against women. The report was released a couple of weeks ago. It's available on ANROWS' website, so that's Australia's National Research Organisation for Women's Safety. So the main report is there with the findings from that research, but as part of that project, they're also going to be developing some practitioner guidelines. So for people who work in the alcohol and gambling space, but mostly gambling, and also in the domestic violence space. So the practice is to really hopefully to provide - and a bit of an understanding about the intersections there, but also some options around referral processes and how practitioners might be able to respond if they're working with someone who might be experiencing those co-occurring issues.

MR DOLMAN: Great, thanks very much for pointing us to those other resources and research. It sounds - very significant work and terrific, the intersections I guess of gambling and family violence are being closely looked at. So thank you, Rebecca, once again for not just your response to that question but for your contribution to today's webinar and thank you again Monya and Christine. It's been lovely to join with you in this conversation and I've really appreciated what you've brought to our understandings of this important social issue. So thank you very much.

CHRISTINE: Thank you, Chris.

MS MURCH: Thank you.

MS JENKINSON: Thank you, Chris.



The transcript is provided for information purposes only and is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the transcript undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. Before using the material contained in the transcript, the permission of the relevant presenter should be obtained.

The Commonwealth of Australia, represented by the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS), is not responsible for, and makes no representations in relation to, the accuracy of this transcript. AIFS does not accept any liability to any person for the content (or the use of such content) included in the transcript. The transcript may include or summarise views, standards or recommendations of third parties. The inclusion of such material is not an endorsement by AIFS of that material; nor does it indicate a commitment by AIFS to any particular course of action.

Slide outline

1. Families and gambling: Helping parents and improving outcomes for children

Monya Murch, Rebecca Jenkinson and Christine. 
CFCA Emerging Minds Webinar 14 October 2020

2. Families and gambling: Helping parents and improving outcomes for children

Monya Murch, Rebecca Jenkinson and Christine

3. Learning outcomes

This webinar will explore:

  • the links between gambling harm and other adversities faced by families.
  • the adverse impacts of shame, stigma and stereotypes associated with gambling harm on parents, their parenting, and their children’s social and emotional wellbeing.
  • how practitioners can support parents in ways that offer an alternative to shame and stigma to further improve outcomes for themselves and their children.

4. Webinar acknowledgements

Emerging Minds and CFCA wish to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands across Australia upon which our webinar presenters and participants are located.

We wish to pay respect to the Elders past, present and future for the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Indigenous Australia.

5. Webinar series

2020/21 Emerging Minds series: Focus on infant and child mental health

Upcoming webinars include:

  • Homelessness and child-focused practice.
  • Working with children and families in rural and remote settings.
  • Practice approaches to support the mental health and wellbeing of children living with a disability.

Previous webinars in this series:

  • Responding to family violence in First Nations families to support children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

6. Housekeeping

  • Send through your questions via the chat box at any time during the webinar.
  • Let us know if you don’t want your question published on the online forum following the presentation.
  • All our webinars are recorded.
  • The slides are available in the handout section of Gotowebinar.
  • The audio and transcript will be posted on our website and YouTube channel in the coming week.

7. Presenters

  • Monya Murch  
    Psychotherapist, Gambling Help Service, Relationships Australia SA
  • Rebecca Jenkinson  
    Manager, Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC), AIFS
  • Christine  
    Consumer Voice Speaker
  • Chris Dolman (Facilitator)  
    Senior Workforce Development Officer, Emerging Minds

8. Gambling, related harms and affected others

Dr Rebecca Jenkinson, Australian Gambling Research Centre, Australian Institute of Family Studies

9. Gambling participation in Australia

6.5 million Australian adults (39%) gambled in a typical month in 2018

Figure 1: Products (by participation) among people who gambled (HILDA, 2018)

  • Lottery - 77.1%
  • Poker machines (pokies) - 21.4%
  • Scratchies - 18%
  • Race betting 17.7%
  • Sports betting - 13.2%

10. Gambling expenditure in Australia

Figure 2. Gambling expenditure in Australia (QGSO, 2019)


  • Total - 23.7%
  • Pokies - 12.2%


  • Total - 24.9%
  • Pokies - 12.5%

Figure 3: Average expenditure (HILDA, 2018)

All adults

  • $44 monthly ($528 annual)

Among people who gamble

  • $133 monthly ($1,596 annual)

11. Gambling-related problems and harm

  • 1.3 million Australian adults (7.9%) had experienced one or more gambling-related problems in 2018 (HILDA, 2018)
  • Findings from recent Gambling in Australia during COVID-19 study revealed that among people who gamble regularly:
    • 79% would be classified as being at risk of, or already experiencing, some gambling‑related problems (past 12 months)
    • males more likely than females to be classified at risk (84% vs 67%)

12. Types of gambling-related harms

  • Financial
    • reduced spending on essential and recreational activities
    • increased debt or borrowing
    • secret bank accounts, loans and credit cards
    • unpaid bills or disconnection notices, bankruptcy
    • selling items to fund gambling, money or assets disappearing
  • Emotional or psychological
    • moodiness, unexplained anger, stress
    • feelings of failure, regret, distress, worthlessness and shame

13. Types of gambling-related harms part 2

  • Health
    • stress-related illnesses, reduced sleep, headaches
    • anxiety, depression
    • suicidal thoughts, self-harm
  • Work or study
    • absenteeism, reduced performance, exclusion from study, conflict at work, job loss
  • Legal
    • crimes of opportunity such as theft and fraud

14. Types of gambling-related harms part 3

  • Relationship
    • decreased contact with friends/ avoidance of social activities
    • neglect of responsibilities
    • secretiveness about activities
    • conflicts within relationships
    • controlling or manipulative behaviour, emotional, economic and physical abuse
    • children and other family members may experience:
      • loss of trust
      • feel hurt, afraid, forgotten, ashamed, angry
      • experience anxiety or depression

15. Impacts on families

Relationship problems:

For twenty-odd years since the early nineties in Victoria, my wife and I developed a pokies habit that cost us up to a couple of hundred thousand dollars that we could ill afford - causing considerable damage to relationships, lifestyle and self-esteem.

My partner is a chronic gambler, and the break from the pokies almost cured her, but she got one whiff and was back on them again, to the point it almost broke our relationship.

Source: Jenkinson et al (forthcoming), Gambling in Australia during COVID-19 Study.

16. Impacts on families part 2

Intimate partner violence:

You get the partner being forced to sign up for loans or the gambling partner fraudulently taking out loans in the partner’s name or using joint assets. You just see a lot of financial violence when it comes to gambling.

She had 40 years of domestic violence, and no one reported and acted on behalf of her, and she kept [it] a secret … her husband is a gambler. He still gambles and she got into gambling herself … due to loneliness and isolation and poor mental health.

Source: Hing, N., et al (2020). The relationship between gambling and intimate partner violence against women: ANROWS

17. Impacts on families part 3

Intergenerational impacts and gambling normalisation:

My husband was a terrible gambler [who] almost cost us our marriage. I gave him an ultimatum. Now my son is even worse, and I hate it, I’ve tried to help him to no avail. I absolutely hate gambling.

[Gambling was] very normalised - my parents routinely gambled and encouraged me to gamble from a young age. But, with my own children, I am helping them to understand that it is not entirely healthy.

It was a thing that I was exposed to quite early by relatives and friends.

Source: Jenkinson et al (forthcoming), Gambling in Australia during COVID-19 Study.

18. Impacts on families (AGRC research)

Normalisation and children’s exposure:

Gambling is marketed everywhere and it’s being normalised among children at young ages.

Far too much advertising, it encourages young children to gamble. As a former teacher, it’s a worry when 10‑year‑old children talk about the odds of an AFL team winning a match or batsman makes 100 in cricket.

[Gambling is] definitely promoted as a 'right of passage' for teenagers or something done with friends.

Source: Jenkinson et al (forthcoming), Gambling in Australia during COVID-19 Study.

19. Summary

  • 39% of adults in Australia gamble in a typical month
    • largest per capita gamblers in the world
  • Gambling can be associated with a range of diverse harms, including
    • financial, health, work/study, relationship
  • Close family members, including partners and children, are impacted by others’ gambling problems
  • Opportunities to reduce harm include
    • tighter regulation of the gambling industry
    • increasing public and professional awareness of the types of gambling-related harms that individuals and families experience, and how to respond

20. Acknowledgements

  • The AGRC was established under the Commonwealth Gambling Measures Act 2012 and is part of AIFS.
  • I am grateful to my co-authors, Uma Jatkar, Rukhsana Tajin, Kei Sakata and Tayyab Khokhar, and to our colleagues from across AIFS and DSS for their wonderful support.
  • We are indebted to the research participants and key stakeholders for their support, generosity of time and valuable contributions to this research.
  • Views expressed are those of individual authors and may not reflect those of the AGRC, AIFS or the Australian Government.

Dr Rebecca Jenkinson  
E: [email protected] W: www.aifs.gov.au

21. Bibliography

  • Dowling, N. (2014). The impact of gambling problems on families (AGRC Discussion Paper). Melbourne: AGRC, AIFS.
  • Family Drug and Gambling Help: August 2020 Newsletter. www.sharc.org.au
  • Goodwin, B. et al. (2017) A typical problem gambler affects six others. International Gambling Studies, 17(2), 276-289.
  • Hing, N. et al. (2020). The relationship between gambling and intimate partner violence against women (Research report, 21/2020). Sydney: ANROWS
  • Jenkinson, R. et al. (forthcoming). Gambling in Australia during COVID 19 Study. Melbourne: AGRC, AIFS.
  • Jenkinson, R. et al. (2019). National Consumer Protection Framework for Online Wagering: Baseline study. Final Report. Melbourne: AGRC, AIFS.
  • Sakata, K. et al. (forthcoming). Gambling in Australia (HILDA Wave 18). Melbourne: AGRC, AIFS.
  • Rintoul, A., & Debalquiere, J. (2019). Gambling in Suburban Australia. AGRC Research Report. Melbourne: AGRC, AIFS.
  • Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. (2016). Fact Sheet 2: Assessing gambling-related harm in Victoria: The seven dimensions of gambling harm. Melbourne: VRGF.

22. Lessing the impact of shame, stereotypes and adverse experiences

Monya Murch & Christine

Gambling Help Service, Relationships Australia South Australia

21. Introduction

  • Gambling-related harm and adversities faced by families.
  • Shame and stigma as consequences of gambling harm and the adverse impact on parents and their children.
  • How to support parents in ways that offer an alternative to shame and stigma to break the negative impact of gambling-related harm.

24. Gambling-related harm

  • Families and partners experiences of significant distress.
  • Parental anxiety and depression
  • Volatile environment where the following can be present:
    • Relational difficulties and breaking down of relationships
    • Emotional and physical neglect
    • Hostility
    • Isolation – lack of support
    • Financial burdens – poverty
    • Violence

25. Gambling-related Harm part 2

  • Caregivers' experiences of low self-esteem, self-neglect, self-loathing
  • Caregivers can be inattentive, emotionally unresponsive; and less attuned
  • It can affect children both physically, emotionally and socially
  • Most immediate impact: child's anxiousness, negative affect, poos sleeping patterns.

26. Parental Challenges

The birth of a child is a sensitive period of transformation and changes in caregivers’ lives

  1. Navigating Parenthood
  2. Legitimacy of Distress
  3. Protecting Partnership
  4. Diversity of Support

27. Child-Parent relationship

  • Environment is crucial to develop positive or negative spirals of parenting.
  • Both parents contribute to their child’s development directly and/or indirectly.
  • Quality of relationship also combination of:
    • Parent past experiences – positive and negative
    • Infant’s behaviour
    • Attitude of closely surrounding people
  • Early positive experience supports parents’ sense of competence and confidence.

28. Child-Parent relationship part 2

Attachment security

  • Supports affect expression
  • and navigate emotional states


  • Physical
  • Psychological wellbeing
  • Socio-emotional engagement

29. Gambling-related Harm: unintended consequences

  • Gambling harm
    • Grief and loss
    • Shame
    • Emotional Abuse
    • Emotional Neglect
    • Domestic Violence
    • Caregiver substance use
    • Caregiver goes to gaol
    • Physical neglect

30. Grief and Loss

  • Preoccupation with gambling activities and experiences of emotional loss.
  • Attempts to rescue the parent and experiences of:
    • Loss of security/safety
    • Loss of connection & intimacy
    • Loss of trust and ‘sense of betrayal’
    • Loss of support network

31. Let’s talk about … Shame

  • Shame is a painful interpersonal emotion
  • Shame can also be described as:
    • An “intense negative emotion which characteristic is the perception of a global devaluation of self”
    • As “a force that impacts on one’s self-worth”
  • Types of shame:
    • Pre-verbal
    • Implicit
    • Chronic shame

32. Let’s talk about … Shame part 2

  • Shame involves painful, challenging feelings linked to:
    • a sense of inferiority;
    • desire to hide one’s flaws;
    • hopelessness.**
  • Negative impact on self-esteem
  • Physiological reaction/impact of shame
  • Shame is meant to be repaired …

33. Stereotypes & stigma

  • Stereotypes
    • applied to groups of people experienced or perceived as different from oneself.
    • key variable in the stigmatization process.
    • “Problem gamblers” considered:
      • impulsive, desperate, irresponsible, greedy irrational, aggressive
      • the label ‘gambler’ is not ‘neutral’.
  • Stigma
    • Prejudice
    • Discrimination – results in loss of life opportunities
    • Pejorative view

34. Responding to Shame & Stigma

“It is the task of the social scientist . . . of any educator . . . to continually translate personal troubles into public issues, and public issues into the terms of their human meaning for a variety of individuals”  
~ Lee Ann Hoff

35. Understanding

  • Most people use gambling to temporally abate tension, pain, discomfort … “to dilute anxiety, self-doubt and self-loathing.”
  • Unintended consequence to ‘seeking relief’ from:
    • Discomfort and Tension
    • ‘Not good enough’
    • External environment
    • A sense of “not fitting in or belonging”
    • Sadness, Anger, Hurt, Loneliness … Shame

36. Understanding part 2

  • Shame and secrecy can lead to:
    • Internalising (psychological distress)
    • Externalising (aggression)
  • Honour and appreciate courage, disagreement and transparency.
  • The importance of ‘co-regulation of affect’ and re-establish:
    • sense of safety;
    • possibility of reciprocal intention, dialogue.

37. Repair

  • Shame freezes us in unhelpful places
  • It says one is not "rising to the demands of others"
  • Repair means that:
  • Noticing and acknowledging shame
  • We give space to the person and let go of 'demands'
  • Understanding oneself

38. Repair continued…

  • Gambling-related harm requires timely and intensive Intervention which is also:
    • Family sensitive – strengthen family while assuring child safety.
    • Working in consultation, collaboration to provide appropriate, varied activities & resources.
  • Offer a reflection of person’s value & strengths.
  • Define and (re)-establish a sense of purpose.
  • Community and meaningful relationships.

39. Christine’s story:  
“Wanted to be loved”

“Relief from my pain came from  
ACTION, LIGHTS, MUSIC and dollar coins  
Still lonely  
But that drug is so good  
Only good for so long … why am I allowing it?  
No more action, lights and music  
HELP came along.” ~ Christine

40. Q & A Discussion

41. Extra question time

Following this webinar the presenters will respond to remaining questions. These responses will be added to the recording of the broadcast and posted on CFCA in the following week. Subscribe to CFCA news to be notified when they are available.

Related resources

Related resources


Monya Murch is a psychotherapist who works for the Gambling Help Service at Relationships Australia in Adelaide. Monya has specialist training in addiction, trauma-informed practice, and perinatal mental health, which she brings to her work in supporting families affected by gambling.

Dr Rebecca Jenkinson | Senior Research Fellow (Gambling, Alcohol and Other Drugs)

Dr Rebecca Jenkinson is a Senior Research Fellow (Gambling, Alcohol and Other Drugs) and Manager of the Australian Gambling Research Centre at AIFS. She also holds an Honorary Burnet Institute Fellow position in the Behaviours and Health Risks Program at the Burnet Institute, and an Adjunct Lecturer position in the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University.

Born in Macedonia, Christine’s heritage remains important to her, including her language for communicating with family and community elders, folk music and dancing and Macedonian food. Christine is a survivor of many challenges, including becoming homeless due to her husbands’ substance use and gambling behaviour which coincided with her own health and gambling challenges. Her journey to being a Consumer Voice Speaker has helped her to heal and share her understandings of the impact of gambling harm including experiences of shame and how pervasive it is.


Chris Dolman, Senior Practice Development Officer, Emerging Minds

Chris Dolman is a social worker who has been working for the past 15 years with individuals, couples and families facing a broad range of concerns in their lives and relationships. Chris currently works with Emerging Minds and the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, as well as a narrative therapist with Country Health SA, providing consultations via video link to people living in rural and remote South Australia. Previously Chris has worked as a counsellor, supervisor and manager in a family and relationships counselling service with Uniting Communities with a particular focus around responding to family violence and the effects of childhood sexual abuse. He holds a Master of Narrative Therapy and Community Work and is a member of the Dulwich Centre Teaching Faculty.