For Michaela Settle, the MP for Buninyong, the harm caused by problem gambling could not be closer to home. Seven years ago, her marriage fell apart due to her husband's addiction.
On Thursday, as she announced $100,000 from the Andrews government for a Ballarat Community Health project to help reduce gambling harm, she revealed the impact on her own family.
She said her husband had gambled throughout their marriage. "It escalated as we went along - until in 2012 it had a fairly devastating impact for us," she told The Courier. "We separated as a consequence."
If we can talk about it more, maybe my husband would have felt more relaxed going for help and seeking help earlier.Michaela Settle, MP for Buninyong
Although Ms Settle is guarded about the details, protective of her ex-husband - they remain very good friends - and her children, she felt compelled to do more.
"I guess I feel that I really have to speak out. Stigma is the one thing that stops people from getting help. In my case, I didn't realise until it was very far down the track and a lot of harm had happened."
"If we can talk about it more, maybe my husband would have felt more relaxed going for help and seeking help earlier."
With the state government saying 550,000 Victorians experience harm from their own gambling each year - and as many as six more people around them affected - it is clearly a widespread issue.
Last year, there was $2.7 billion lost in Victoria on electronic gaming machines. In Ballarat, that figure was $57 million. Recent figures show the monthly tally is rising with another venue opening in the city this year.
On a broader level there are plenty of vocal critics about the approach towards gambling adopted by the Andrews government she belongs to. The Victorian Greens in particular, would like to get rid of pokies altogether.
When asked why the state government does not do more to reduce the amount of places you can gamble, Ms Settle said: "For me it's a mental health issue. I don't think prohibition works. What works is trying to address the reason people fall into these spirals."
She wants gambling addiction to be considered in the same way that alcohol and drug dependencies. "People still see it as a flaw in your character," she said.
I saw it as a negative. I thought 'this is going to be used against me, I can't do this'. But then the more I thought about it [I thought] if you want to make real change, then you've really got to stand up and be counted.Michaela Settle, MP for Buninyong
"I remember saying to him [her husband], weren't you thinking of me and the kids? You wouldn't say that to a heroin addict because we know they are in the grip of an addiction. In the same way he was in the grip of an addiction and wasn't thinking properly."
She admitted that she still does not find it easy to talk about the very personal experience of the harm that gambling dependency can cause. Her decision to go public was not without some soul-searching.
"I thought long and hard about it," she said. "Initially when I was thinking about running [for election], I saw it as a negative. I thought 'this is going to be used against me, I can't do this'.
"But then the more I thought about it [I thought] if you want to make real change, then you've really got to stand up and be counted."
The minister for gaming and liquor Marlene Kairouz announced $2 million for local gambling harm prevention projects, with $100,000 for a two-year Ballarat Community Health (BCH) pilot project. At least 10 organisations across the city will work together to help develop a plan "identifying key messages and opportunities."
Sean Duffy, the CEO of Ballarat Community Health, said the funds would help the community build awareness to tackle the issue.
"Ballarat does have a gambling problem," he said."We perhaps see it more than others with the impact of family violence, alcohol and drug addiction and breakdown of the family unit."
He said he was realistic and that the funding was only a start. "This is an enormous problem that will require long-term systemic investment and long-term commitment."
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