La Trobe
528553_MacLean,S_2019.pdf (563.44 kB)

Gambling in Two Regional Australian Aboriginal Communities: A Social Practice Analysis

Download (563.44 kB)
journal contribution
posted on 2021-12-15, 00:25 authored by Sarah MacLeanSarah MacLean, Kathleen MaltzahnKathleen Maltzahn, Darlene Thomas, Andrew Atkinson, Mary WhitesideMary Whiteside
Reflecting international patterns, Aboriginal people in Victoria are more likely to gamble and to experience gambling harm than non-Indigenous Victorians. This paper describes experiences of gambling reported by 50 Aboriginal people interviewed in regional Victoria in 2016 and 2017 as part of studies initiated by two Aboriginal community-controlled organisations. Data were analysed using social practice theory (SPT) and coded to the elements of ‘meaning’, ‘material’, ‘competence’, and ‘temporality’. Across each element we identified highly contradictory experiences. Gambling held meaning as an opportunity for community gatherings but was also regarded as a cause of domestic violence, conflict, isolation and shame. Materially, the venues that offered gambling were experienced by many Aboriginal people as safe and welcoming, but at the same time gambling produced a damaging affective sense of addiction for some. Gambling was a competency that some people valued and taught to children, but it was also seen as undermining cultural practices. While Aboriginal people were historically denied access to licensed venues offering commercial gambling, many participants now found opportunities to gamble inescapable. The intermingling of benefits and harms described above supports the need for a multi-faceted response to gambling in Aboriginal communities, which includes harm reduction as well as supply restriction and treatment. Some experiences of gambling related by our participants reflected those reported also by non-Indigenous Australians, while others were differently nuanced. Because SPT is used to understand collectively-shared practices, it facilitates the identification of gambling interventions at the level of the community, as recommended by our research participants.


This research was commissioned by Mallee District Aboriginal Services and the Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative and funded by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation. We thank our research participants who generously shared their experiences with us and Dea Morgain for advice and support.


Publication Date



Journal of Gambling Studies






15p. (p. 1331-1345)





Rights Statement

The Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.

Usage metrics

    Journal Articles


    No categories selected