Mental Health


Chasing the Luck?

Chasing the Luck was an innovative, award-winning primary prevention initiative of the Inner East Primary Care Partnership (IEPCP*) focused on reducing gambling related harm amongst Melbourne’s Inner-East Chinese communities.

Representing a diverse multi-sectoral partnership approach across community service organisations, businesses, primary health care, and inner east local governments, the program collaborated with the local Chinese communities to identify the harms they were experiencing from problem gambling, and co-designed creative responses which engaged the community in a myriad of ways.

Building on the significant activity already undertaken by the IEPCP in gambling harm reduction, the seeds of Chasing The Luck were first planted in 2013. Through a series of think-tanks and partnership events, IEPCP identified the inner east’s Chinese communities as being at particularly high risk from gambling harm. At the time, more than 40% of Chinese Asia-born residents in Victoria were living in inner east metropolitan Melbourne. In 2013, the catchment had 2,093 electronic gaming machines in 33 gaming venues (4.07 machines per 1,000 adults), representing an annual net gambling loss of $236,239,178-00.

Additionally, Chinese community leaders had drawn attention to the high number of restaurant and hospitality shift workers from within their community who were at risk. Working variable hours and finishing late at night significantly limited opportunities for social engagement for many of these workers – and problematically, gambling venues were amongst the few establishments open in the early hours of the morning. As one worker divulged: “We go to the casino after we’ve finished work, chasing the luck.”

Lastly, community leaders identified the stigma related to gambling harm was very high within the community – there were perceptions of shame and guilt experienced around financial losses from gambling, while the issue of gambling more broadly was seen as something which was a private matter and not to be discussed publicly.

With funding provided by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, IEPCP assembled an expansive partnership group to guide, inform and co-design a response to this emerging issue. Recognising the importance of local knowledge, the IEPCP employed a series of highly skilled bi-cultural workers, all of whom brought connection with extensive networks and a deep knowledge of their local communities to the project. Engagement in building the steering group was far-reaching, incorporating local businesses, community leaders, Chinese community service organisations, community health services and the local governments of Boroondara, Manningham, Monash, and Whitehorse.

The steering group and bi-cultural workers identified that the traditional messaging associated with responsible gambling promotion was culturally inappropriate for the Chinese-speaking community. A media expert group was convened with community representatives to identify key media channels through which to deliver the most culturally appropriate responsible gambling messages.

Chasing The Luck co-designed an innovative media campaign, developing messages that would speak directly to the Inner-East’s Chinese community in culturally and linguistically relevant ways. This campaign utilised traditional print media and local community newspapers, as well as community radio stations, local government publications and social media – including WeChat, a highly popular social media platform within Chinese Australian communities. Beyond delivering culturally relevant messages around gambling harm, this campaign was also interactive, with the Chasing The Luck team running several competitions where community members submitted artwork, poetry and other written pieces on their lived experiences of gambling harm.

Community strengths and assets were centred throughout the project, with a strong focus on empowering community voices and placing citizens at the centre of the change process.

The legacy of Chasing the Luck (is that it) really showed that co-design works. Communities understand and have the solutions to their own problems. Our role was to facilitate the exploration of the issues and discovery of the answers and then support the community to implement the strategies that they had devised. Sally Missing - Former IEPCP Executive Officer

In 2015 Chasing The Luck won the VicHealth award for Communication in Health Promotion – an incredible recognition of the innovation, co-design methodology, and the impact that the health promotion messaging and communication strategy developed by the partnership was having in local communities.

Concluding in late 2015, Chasing The Luck resulted in the upskilling of Chinese community leaders, service providers and broader Chinese-Australian community residents in harm prevention strategies. Enabling the general community to contribute ideas and to become involved in the program empowered them to develop their own solutions to prevent harm from gambling and to consider the application and meaning of responsible gambling within the community. Chinese-language media outlets were also empowered to actively contribute to gambling harm prevention messaging. In a lasting outcome, local leaders in the Chinese community are now empowered to design, lead and steer the development of community dialogue on social issues through their participation in a Chinese Community expert group and other health promotion activity generated by Chasing the Luck.

Ultimately, the IEPCP facilitated the Inner-East’s Chinese community to be agents of change – with leaders from all levels and sectors across the community acquiring the skills, knowledge, networks and resources to drive effective change in gambling related harm.

*The IEPCP has transitioned to the North Eastern Public Health Unit (NEPHU).

**This article first appeared in Powerful Collaborative Partnerships, a commemorative document celebrating 21 years of the Inner East and Outer East PCPs. The article was compiled by Alex Mills with contributions from PCP staff.