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Maori Gambling Problem Helpline Responds

Maori Gambling Problem Helpline Responds To Growing Issue

The Maori Problem Gambling Helpline - a nationwide counseling and resourcing service for Maori gamblers, whanau and partners affected by gambling - launches this week.

Affiliated to the Gambling Problem Helpline, this new service aims to match the cultural requirements of Maori callers with experienced Maori telephone counselors.

Manager of the Gambling Problem Helpline, Gary Clifford, says the service has been established in response to an increase in the number of Maori callers to the Gambling Problem Helpline - with one out of every four callers currently identifying themselves as Maori.

"It appears that the number and accessibility of pokie machines throughout the country is fuelling the growth of problem gambling for Maori - often with devastating consequences," says Mr Clifford. "Our statistics indicate that Maori women in particular are being adversely affected by gambling as never before."

The Gambling Problem Helpline has received just on 400 self-identified Maori first time callers for the first half of this year. This compares to 500 in 1999, and 750 in 2002.

Mr Clifford says over the past few years around 27% of the gamblers contacting the Gambling Problem Helpline have been Maori but this has been nearer 30% recently; and 70% of those are women. In 1999, 11% of family/whanau contacts to the Gambling Problem Helpline were Maori. This has risen to around 13.5% for the first half of 2003.

A team of three Maori women counselors will initially staff the Maori Gambling Problem Helpline on Wednesday (5-9 pm) and Saturday evenings (7.30-11.30 pm). In addition the Maori callback system, currently operating, will continue to provide a discreet callback service to anyone requesting a Maori counselor.

The helpline's hours will be extended to match the needs of the clients and it is envisaged that the Maori counseling team will increase to five by the end of the year.

Callers phoning outside of the initial operating hours will be offered the choice of accessing the main Gambling Problem Helpline number (0800 654 655) or may leave their name and a contact phone number. A Maori counselor will return their call within a 24 hour time-frame.

Working within a kaupapa framework the Maori Gambling Problem Helpline's by-line "Nga ringa ringa tumanako/Hands of Hope" reflects its philosophy of a helping hand in times of need.

Mr Clifford says the essence of the Maori helpline's awhina (service) is providing initial contact and ongoing support to break the cycle of addiction. All calls are handled sensitively and confidentially.

"The counselors strive to work alongside their callers and can assist with whanau and cultural issues where required. Providing a culturally matched service offers Maori a choice other than mainstream."

Maori counselor Leigh-Ann Pukeroa says the Maori helpline also aims to provide callers with the option to deal with experienced face-to- face agencies and support groups, and whenever possible counselors will refer callers to other Maori service providers.

"We see ourselves as an important first point of contact for many Maori, the first step in their recovery process. For many Maori their gambling addiction is a hidden and shameful part of their lives. Many come to us in crisis, and knowing how to handle these calls is a crucial part of our service.

"We offer this service - 'nga ringa ringa tumanako' in the hope that we can make a difference for our people and support them on their journey of recovery," says Ms Pukeroa.

Maori Gambling Problem Helpline - 0800 654 656

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