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Monday, 24 February 2014
Page: 538

Mr GILES (Scullin) (13:33): Next month residents of the City of Whittlesea will be taking up the challenge to 'March Away from Gambling'. Local neighbourhood houses and community groups have banded together to run a series of community events and activities in March as an alternative to visiting gaming venues and often losing money in poker machines.

The City of Whittlesea is disproportionately affected by problem gambling. Over a quarter of a million dollars is lost in poker machines there every day. This amounted to over $93 million last year. The manager of Thomastown Neighbourhood House, Justine Sless, recognises that Whittlesea's gambling losses are 'shocking' and hopes the March Away from Gambling initiative will help the Whittlesea community reduce losses and also increase engagement in community-building events. I share this hope and am pleased to see such a community focused response.

The initiative asks individuals to do three things: (1) to make the pledge to take a month off any form of gambling, (2) to join in any of the community events organised for each day of March and, (3) to help raise awareness of the issue of gambling. The event is supported by a number of community organisations, including the City of Whittlesea, Creeds Farm Living and Learning Centre, the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service, the Whittlesea Interagency Task Force on Gambling, Mill Park Community House, and the Lalor Living and Learning Centre.

As an advocate of responsible gambling, I fully support the initiative of the Whittlesea community and encourage residents to sign up to the event and support the good work of its ambassadors, Associate Professor Samantha Thomas and Councillor Sam Alessi.