‘I love my volunteer work. I get to speak to people all over the state; sharing stories and talking about life. It keeps me going. And when I hear someone say that they gambled less or maybe gave up all together, I know I’m making a real difference
In May we celebrated National Volunteer Week where we stopped and reflected on the impact volunteers have had on our community over the past 12 months.
While many groups and services were unable to run as normal during 2020, this extraordinary year saw volunteers making a world of difference to many in our community.
One of our many volunteers that has done just that is Elizabeth. At 75, Elizabeth has no plans to stop volunteering with gambling addicts.
Elizabeth has a spring in her step and an enviable zest for life. ‘You’ve just got to get out there and keep going,’ she says.
Elizabeth’s exposure to gambling star ted in her twenties when she married her husband who was a gambler, but it didn’t turn into an addiction until her fifties when divorce left her with spare time and money to spend.
‘My whole life, I never had my own money. As a young woman my earnings went straight to my parents, later my husband managed the finances. So when I left him, it was really the first time I had control of my money and I found myself drifting into gaming venues.’
‘The pokies were a fun way to pass the time. I didn’t realise it had become a problem until I ran out of money. When I didn’t have enough, I ended up stealing from a friend.’
Elizabeth is not alone in her love of gambling.
69% of Victorian adults gamble and the more frequently they gamble, the more likely they will lose control.
According to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation 630,000 Victorians experienced gambling harm in 2018/19 including money worries, relationship difficulties or guilt about spending more than they can afford.
Now in recovery, Elizabeth has devoted the last five years to helping others beat gambling addiction. ‘Helping others is my reality check. It’s a reminder of how bad things can get for gambling addicts if they don’t reach out and find help. When I do my volunteer work; I inspire people to stop gambling and they inspire me to stay in recovery.’
As a trained ReSPIN speaker, for Banyule Community Health Service, Elizabeth uses her story to educate community groups about gambling harm.Through her courageous, and sometimes raw, story she raises awareness, breaks down stigma and spreads a message of hope.
Elizabeth also volunteers for Peer Connection where she provides free and confidential telephone support to people struggling to stop/ control their gambling.