Lucas Craig – GambleAware Community Engagement Coordinator

Many people on the Coffs Coast will have read the interesting interview in the August edition of Focus Magazine (page 66) where we got to know our new GambleAware Mid and Northern NSW Community Engagement Coordinator, Lucas Craig. Lucas started with GambleAware at the end of May 2023, and since then he has truly hit the ground running and has, without a doubt, made a significant impact connecting with the community across our footprint, from Port Macquarie to Tweed Heads.

Lucas’s first community engagement was attending the Kinship Festival 26th-28th May in Mullumbimby. Lucas and Simone Hickey, the GambleAware Program Manager, set up a stand at the festival where they engaged with over 30 interested attendees and handed out many lucky door prizes. The festival was a tremendous introduction for Lucas to his new role as the Community Engagement Coordinator, and he expressed how excited he was to see so many people from all walks of life attend, get involved, and celebrate the positivity and abundance of music, art, and culture displayed at the festival.

On 31st May the Kempsey community gathered in Dunghutti country to mark Reconciliation Week for an official Flag Raising ceremony and event.  Danielle Reilly invited Lucas to join the Kempsey Neighbourhood Centre at their stall for the event. All the local schools attended and we had a flurry of activity at the stall when the kids saw the great gift bags we had for them to take home. As well as being packed with goodies we also included branded GambleAware items. Lucas saw first hand how impactful it can be when services come together to support their community.

A few weeks later, 19th 20th and 21st of June, Ashley Gordon, Manager of NSW Aboriginal Safe Gambling Service, joined Lucas and Simone on a mini tour of the northern region of our service area. After visiting with members of the team in Lismore on Monday the 19th, Lucas and Ashley visited Lismore Health Service where they had a meeting with the General Manager of the center and dropped GambleAware brochures about our services. On Tuesday 20th the full team came together in the GambleAware offices in Tweed Heads to get to know each other and talk strategy. Then on Wednesday 21st Lucas, Simone, and Ashley visited Mullumbimby Community Centre to attend their monthly community barbeque. They were given the opportunity to talk to the team about the program and explore ideas for future partnering opportunities with the center to deliver information and services to this community.

For Lucas, July began with a very busy NAIDOC week – 3rd to 7th July 2023 – read more here. The following week Lucas traveled up to meet The Program Manager in Ballina where they did an impromptu walk-in to ‘Bullinah’ a local Aboriginal Health Service to introduce themselves and the GambleAware program. Through the course of the conversation, a need for information about gambling-related counseling and services for this community was discussed. As a result of this impromptu walk-in the team has been invited back at the end of August to present to their ‘pre-school and health services for women’ group.

Earlier in July while attending the ‘Who you gonna call’ forum during NAIDOC week, Lucas had spoken with Aunty Karen Roberts who runs the Health and Elders group at Galimbila in Coffs Harbour. Aunty Karen invited Lucas to visit the center to meet with the Elders group. On 9th August 2023, Lucas and Ash Kady, acting Services Manager, from Lifeline North Coast, attended the Health and Elders group where they discussed mental health and gambling harm with the group, and also talked about the importance of the elders being able to attend the Elders Olympics. In 2023 the group was unable to attend due to lack of funds. This meeting opened the door for further collaborations and brought it home to Lucas the importance of continuing to build relationships within our local organisations, services and community groups.

Early in August 2023, Emily Lawson from Headspace in Port Macquarie reached out to Lucas for information on the GambleAware program. Lucas drove to Port Macquarie to deliver brochures and information and to meet the Headspace team. Emily welcomed Lucas with a tour of their space and had the opportunity to exchange information on what their respective organizations are doing, exploring the potential for running workshops and training for their clientele. As a result of this meeting, Headspace in Port Macquarie will be getting more involved with the GambleAware program and the team at internal team development events.

Since starting in May 2023, Lucas has attended two of the monthly Interagency meetings where he has been building important relationships with services from Tweed Heads to Coffs Harbour to Port Macquarie. Because it is such a large area to cover attending these Interagency meetings across the region is allowing Lucas to connect with services regularly.

On 9th August Lucas and Simone met with a local not-for-profit organisation that runs several projects for the local Aboriginal Community in Toormina. Lucas had met with Noelene Skinner, Lead Program Coordinator at ‘The Happy Boxes Project’, again at the ‘Who you gonna call’ forum in Coffs Harbour during NAIDOC week in July. Hearing Lucas speak about the GambleAware program she invited Lucas to visit their organisation at their headquarters in Toormina. Nuami Gawbarri means women’s gathering ‘A place for women to simply ‘be” with a mission to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women by alleviating the barriers to accessing basic needs. They also run several youth-focused programs providing a safe space for disengaged youth to come and simply be. Lucas believes this meeting was a very significant step toward reaching kids who are very disadvantaged, directly or indirectly, because of gambling within their families and in their community.

These conversations, meetings, and discussions are joining the dots across the GambleAware Mid and Northern NSW service area and Lucas has well and truly started building the foundations connecting communities and individuals to the services GambleAware can provide.