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Joey Li's story

Out from the shadow of gambling harm

Read this story in Traditional Chinese: Joey Li的故事

Read this story in Simplified Chinese: Joey Li的故事

My father was a bit strict as I was growing up and didn’t smile much, but my sister and I could feel that he loved us. I saw no violence but there were shouting arguments at home about money while we stayed in our bedroom. Once Mum said she’d like to divorce and Dad was crying and said that he wouldn’t do ‘it’ again.

What was ‘it’? I think he played poker at friends’ houses. When I was in about Year Four, Mum said we didn’t have money for the school fee but I wasn’t to tell anyone. And I remember men phoning us at home looking for my father.

We lived in a small city in Guangdong and my parents worked long hours, Mum in a factory and Dad cooking in a restaurant. Sometimes Mum brought small jobs home like sewing labels on clothes and I did them for her. They saved a deposit to build a new house but had to use that money to pay off debts. My father asked my aunt and uncle and my mum’s friends for money.

It’s lucky my mum is very strong and very positive. When I was in high school, I always loved drawing. Even when we didn’t have money, Mum said, ‘Just keep going. Try hard. Don’t worry about it.’ She never said no.

I had lots of friends at school but I didn’t tell them what was happening and I didn’t like being at home. I moved to Australia in 2006 to study but my sister said the pattern of arguing about money stayed the same.

I have three children and my sister has two. She also lives in Melbourne and our parents have now retired and been here for the last six months. They’re still together but my mum lives with me and my dad lives with my sister to help us out with our children.

After my first child was born, I asked my father if he remembered gambling when we were young. He said yes and that he felt very guilty. He was voted into a village leadership position and said he had to socialise which meant card games and drinking. He smoked and drank for 40 years but now he’s quit for his grandchildren.

My father really respects his older brother who also lives in Melbourne. Mum asked him to ask Dad if he had quit gambling and he said he had. My sister saw him at the TAB with my uncle so I told my uncle to never take him to the TAB.

But I think he’s quit gambling. I told him to talk to me if he’s unhappy or stressed. He’s like two different men. He’s definitely not strict as a grandfather and always has a smile on his face. He keeps busy gardening and going for walks.

My mum helps me especially with my eight-month-old daughter and she says she loves it. She’s really close to all the grandchildren

I’ve been a volunteer on the phone line at EACH Chinese Peer Connection for six months now. Talking to a peer who can understand your experience can really make a difference.

I always debrief afterwards with [Chinese Peer Connection Program Coordinator] Ivy Wong about what the call was about and how I felt. Sometimes I get upset when I hear stories that remind me of growing up. At the same time, those experiences help me understand my clients better and empathise with them. They turned me into a responsible adult.

Chinese Peer Connection open through lockdown

At EACH Chinese Peer Connection, it’s business as usual through the COVID-19 lockdown.

‘We have volunteers working from home on the phone line so we don’t miss any calls,’ explains program coordinator Ivy Wong. ‘It feels busier than ever.’

The Chinese Peer Support program supports people from the Chinese community who are experiencing gambling harm. Support is also available to families.

Contact 1300 755 878

Monday, Wednesday to Friday, 9am—5pm

Tuesday 1—9pm

‘The focus for many of our clients right now is providing support to their elderly parents,’ explains Ivy. ‘Some have been moved out of aged care and into our clients’ homes.

‘What that means for our service is changing our clients’ goals from managing gambling harm to carer support. Emotional support is very important with some of them feeling extra lonely during isolation. Others, though, are establishing healthy habits like dancing practice using YouTube.

‘It’s really important to adapt our services to the requirements of the time.’