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Community educator, David Clark


David Clark from Incolink, photo: Paul Jeffers

by David Clark and Linley Kensitt

As manager of prevention and education programs at Incolink, David Clark heads a team that presents mental health and wellbeing awareness sessions to workers in the building and construction industry. He is currently running sessions for TAFE apprentices as part of a foundation-funded program to prevent gambling harm, especially among young men.

David spoke to Inside gambling about the challenges young apprentices face and the rewards of helping them steer clear of gambling problems.

Why are young apprentices particularly at risk of gambling harm?

They’re at risk for a number of reasons. They are mostly young males, so there are risk-taking behaviours in everything they do. As apprentices, they are low-income earners, and many of them may not have the support systems a lot of other people have. Their peer group can also be a major factor. And they’re entering the building industry, which has a fairly prominent gambling culture.

We’ve seen young people unable to afford their trade school fees because of gambling. Or their car has been repossessed. A car is a tool of the trade. If you don’t have a car, or you can’t go to trade school, your employer doesn’t want you. At the moment we’re presenting to first and second year apprentices, so we’re getting them fairly early on in their careers.

What is the main form of gambling for the apprentices you meet?

Around two-thirds of the apprentices in our sessions gamble. Number one is the horses. Next is the dogs. After that it’s sports betting, then playing the tables at Crown. Last is the pokies. The pokies are looked upon as an older person’s form of gambling. A couple of people in groups have said they do the pokies and copped a fair bit of ridicule.

Some of the apprentices are gambling responsibly and just doing it for entertainment – if they win it’s a bonus. Then you get the polar opposite. Unfortunately their money goes towards gambling rather than the things that are more important, like car repayments, board, rent or lunch.

What are the strategies you suggest for avoiding gambling harm?

We try to facilitate a discussion around gambling. We like to use the experience in the room. It’s a lot more powerful if the suggestions are coming from the peer group rather than from us.

Some apprentices have already got strategies in place for gambling safely. I encourage them to speak about what they do. The main one is setting a limit – a lot of them are setting money limits. Another one is that they don’t gamble on their own. They’ll have a predetermined limit and if they’re about to go over, their mate will say, ‘No, we’ve hit the limit, let’s go’.

Other things include setting time limits so they don’t lose track of time while they’re in there, limiting the amount they drink while they gamble, and leaving their credit cards at home and only taking cash.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

It’s good to see a lot of young people are already doing things responsibly. Some aren’t given the credit they deserve. They’ve got their head screwed on and know what they’re doing.

It’s also rewarding to see the penny drop. Seeing heads nodding when we talk about putting strategies in place. Or talking about budgeting and they start doing their budgets there and then, and they’ve got questions because they’ve never done a budget before. That’s all really positive feedback – we’re hitting the mark and it’s of value to them.

The ultimate is when someone comes back later on and says, ‘Listening to you really made a difference to me.’ Or, ‘When I was listening to you I noticed these issues in my mate, so I had a bit of a chat to him and I’ve put him in contact with Gambler’s Help.’

What changes would you like to see made to the gambling industry?

The amount of advertising – it’s just ridiculous. That needs to be regulated, for sure. It’s pointed out to me by every group I speak to, the number of ads on TV and social media. So we definitely need to get that under control.

To tell you the truth, the majority of apprentices are quite sick of it. So it’s actually having the opposite effect. They just want to watch their sport. They notice it’s creeping into other programs as well: the odds on this, the odds on that. They don’t want to know. ‘I just want to watch the footy, I just want to watch the soccer.’ It’s putting them off, so that’s a positive thing.

Watch David presenting to young tradies at Chisholm TAFE in Frankston: