Over a third of those seeking support for problem gambling are Māori. That’s a statistic that doesn’t sit well with 20-year-old Brooke Stilwell. Passionate about creating positive change in her community, Brooke has championed an innovative public health intervention to raise awareness and tackle gambling harm in her community.

Marking Gamble Harm Awareness week, which runs this week from the 4th - 10th September, Brooke is working with local Te Atatu Intermediate School students, teachers, and families, to create a pou that shares their whakaaro, or thoughts, about gambling in their communities.

Brooke visited the school to create the artwork for the pou, and asked students to raise their hands if they knew about pokie machines. "Just about everyone in the classroom raised their hands", she said. "Now this is to nine and ten year olds! That just blew me away… that blew me away big time, because it’s crazy to think that kids know exactly what it is. They can point out that it’s that massive colourful, cool, awesome, fun looking machine that older people put their money in… and they win… or that’s the perception anyway."

Brooke hopes that her project will help to create a safe space for whānau to discuss gambling harm in an open and non-judgmental way, and prevent tamariki and rangatahi from developing problems down the track.

The pou from Te Atatu will be on display at the Mangere Whānau Fun Day this Thursday, and Brooke will facilitate the development of a partner pou by the Mangere community to strengthen the relationship between these communities. The pou will be donated to the respective Local Boards as a symbol of the aspirations for gamble-free communities, and to demonstrate that our communities can have a voice.

Rebecca Ruwhiu-Collins, Minimisation and Prevention of Gambling Harm Coordinator at Hāpai Te Hauora, says "Working with whānau is essential to tackle gambling harm. It’s so great to see rangatahi Māori like Brooke taking up this wero and really thinking about their communities and how they can make impact."

"Brooke is using an innovative strengths-based approach to get families talking about gambling harm, in a safe and non-judgmental way, and I think that’s what’s powerful. She’s bringing in kaupapa Maori approaches, building a pou, so not only addressing gambling harm, but helping to foster a greater sense of cultural identity for our people. Gambling is not our culture", she says.