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Chandana's story

Chandana Rao smiling whilst sitting outside in the sun with a background of tall trees.

Chandana, photo: Paul Jeffers

A new start in Australia quickly turned into a nightmare when gambling became involved

by Chandana

It has been a long, tumultuous journey, with unexpected twists and turns. From India to the United States to Australia, I hoped things would get better. In Australia, they just got worse.

Born into a reasonably well-off family in India, I received a good education and moved into an interesting and prosperous IT career, spanning various countries and sectors. I socialised with many friends and colleagues and met an intelligent, educated and caring partner. But bad habits became his and my family's downfall.

The conflicts started with my partner's drinking, which made him behave completely unlike his normal self. It was hard to understand, let alone explain, his actions or my reactions, to family and friends. I became an escapist, running across the world, not understanding that the problem was only likely to magnify without seeking support.

A new country and a new problem

Australia was supposed be a haven – a new country and a new start with a beautiful baby. We were blissfully unaware of the huge drinking and gambling culture here, but became familiar with it all too soon.

Was it the isolation, the anonymity, the proximity, the propaganda, the money, the power or something else that lured my partner, and therefore pulled my family, into the vortex of gambling?

It was almost instantaneous, the same month we landed in the country. A normally conservative, cautious and sagacious man was drawn into the casino, walkable from home and, later, right next door to work. Secrecy, guilt and anger took over our lives.

We were blissfully unaware of the huge drinking and gambling culture.

Settling in a new country, alone with a small child and starting a new job, I found it difficult to comprehend the rapid changes in my partner. I struggled to understand what was happening for 10 months before the secret spilled out. Earning a six-figure salary, he had nothing left in his bank account!

Where could I seek help, when his and my parents couldn't even believe it was happening? Was it my fault, as was constantly suggested? Why didn't I have the urge to gamble or drink with all my issues? Would I end up on the streets someday?

Secrecy, guilt and anger took over our lives.

Even though my partner had periods of remorse, the trust was lost irreparably. I could not forget about the money lost, the secrets kept, the uncertainty of the apologies and promises.

It finally ended up in court, many years back. But I still wonder if this could have been avoided if we had sought help before the breakup, not after.

The silver lining

Since our separation, I've had amazing support from various family violence and gambling services, as well as help groups. Without this help, I could never have rebounded so quickly and safely, and been there for my child when she most needed me.

I've had amazing support from various family violence and gambling services.

I have tried to give back by contributing to the Gambler's Help Peer Connection and ReSPIN programs for a few years now, and am also working as an advocate and community educator on gambling.

As they say, every cloud has a silver lining and mine was the gift of a beautiful daughter and the inspiration to work in the community sector during the second half of my career.