“Victorians currently lose over $8.6 millions dollars every single day to the pokies and there is now a direct correlation between gambling harm and family violence, crime and substance abuse…,” claimed Rev Tim Costello, at the annual Victorian Interfaith Networks Conference held on Sunday 18 November in Melbourne.

Hundreds of people from all faiths attended the conference held at the St Albans Community Centre in Melbourne’s west that aims to help build the capacity and sustainability of existing interfaith networks, provides a valuable platform for networking between Interfaith groups and highlights the latest issues affecting the Interfaith community.

The four main workshops presented on the day included “The Social Cost of Gambling Harm:A Faith Response”, “Freedom of Religion vs Freedom of Artistic Expression”, “Living the Change and Child Safe Standards”  and  “The Reportable Conduct Scheme”.

Reverend Tim Costello, chief advocate for World Vision Australia and director of Alliance for Gambling Reform, gave his keynote speech on the Social Cost of Gambling Harm.

He explained that “Victorians currently lose over $8.6 millions dollars every single day to the pokies and there is now a direct correlation between gambling harm and family violence, crime and substance abuse… You can’t play the machines regularly and win.  Nowhere in the world is there a gambling harm epidemic like what we see here in Australia”

Reverend Tim Costello giving keynote speech

“The Social Cost of Gambling Harm: A Faith Response” workshop also included a panel of representatives from faith communities including Rabbi Yaakov Glasman, Senior Rabbi of St Kilda Hebrew Congregation, Venerable Phuoc Tan Thich – Abbot of Quang Minh Temple in Braybrook, Gulhan Yoldas from Whittlesea Interfaith Network and Al Siraat College, and Lyn Dundon from Ethnic Communities Council Victoria.

Each member of the panel discussed how their faiths view gambling, the issues and concerns facing faith communities around gambling harm and what can be done collectively to tackle the ravaging impact of gambling on our society.


A faith response to Gambling Harm Workshop

Gambling Harm is now being addressed as a national public health issue and the accountability is now shifting from the individual to “gamble responsibly”.  Instead, there is a growing focus on the predatory nature of the gambling industry, particularly pokies machines.

Faith builds resilience against many of today’s epidemics and faith communities play a primary preventative role in combating gambling harm by reconnecting families with their faith communities in a way that’s sustainable.

Having an abundance of “harm-free”, affordable, welcoming, recreational options at places of worship offers a positive alternative to predatory gambling venues.

The opposite of addiction is the connection and greater support and funding must be available for faith communities particularly in “at-risk” regions to establish these platforms.

All groups represented agreed that the first thing we need is reform of the gambling industry.

Many Interfaith organisations and local councils across Victoria have now joined the Alliance for  Gambling Reform and are demanding better outcomes for their communities.

This event was proudly supported by Faith Communities Council Victoria, Ethnic Communities Council Victoria, Victoria Police, VMC, DPC, Brimbank & Maribyrnong Interfaith Network, Brimbank City Council and Maribyrnong City Council.

Photos courtesy of Petr Svoboda.