Reported gambling problems amongst the indigenous population of Australia with a focus on the Northern Territory

  • Matthew Stevens

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    Two key events occurred in 2007, which affected Indigenous people living in communities in the Northern Territory (NT), prompting much of the work contained in this thesis. They were the release of the Little Children are Sacred (Ampe Akelyernemane Meke Mekarle) report, highlighting unacceptably high levels of child abuse in NT Indigenous communities, and the subsequent intervention by the Australian Government into the management of these communities through the Northern Territory National Emergency Response Act, 2007. The former report identified gambling as a significant contributing factor toward child abuse, along with alcohol, drugs and pornography; and noted the paucity of empirical data with which to inform policy associated with gambling. To address this shortfall, this thesis brings together approaches to the analysis of these problems through a literature review, followed by three empirical analyses into reported gambling problems amongst the Indigenous population for Australia (by remoteness), the NT, and for ten Indigenous communities located in the NT.

    The literature review identified commercial and card game gambling as causing problems in the Indigenous population, with similar types of problems for both types of gambling. Reported gambling problems occurred at significantly higher levels amongst the Indigenous, compared with the general population of Australia, and there was significant variation by jurisdiction and remoteness. Reported gambling problems clustered with other ‘life stressors’ related to social transgressions (e.g. being abused or in a violent crime, trouble with the police). Correlates of gambling problems highlighted the enmeshed nature of gambling, with variables relating to community participation and community problems showing evidence of a positive association with reported gambling problems. The analysis of reported gambling problems in ten remote communities supported the previous analyses, and provided some evidence that reported gambling problems in households are associated with increased reports of ear infections and scabies in children living in these houses.

    Based on the findings from the empirical analyses and contextual information gleaned from the literature review, this thesis recommends applying a comprehensive (prevention, treatment, regulation and legislation) public health approach to harm minimisation associated with gambling. Other recommendations include: more gambling-related information collected in Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) social and health surveys, better understanding of the types of card games being played in communities, improved screening tools and treatments in Indigenous communities, and improved understanding of how card games affect income distribution in communities.
    Date of AwardJan 2013
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTricia Nagel (Supervisor) & Ross Stewart Bailie (Supervisor)

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