As part of Gambling Harm Awareness Week, Ballina-based gambling reform group Kickin’ The Punt has just released its first major film on YouTube (viewable in full at link above and here). Viewer discretion is advised. This film deals with suicide and mental trauma.
Funded by crowd support, and shot and edited by Alex Bowden, the one hour documentary tells the heartbreaking true story of Gary Van Duinen, whose life was destroyed by poker machines.
Echonetdaily asked KTP co-founder Ben Hamilton about the genesis of Our Stories, Our Truth: the suicide of Gary Van Duinen, and what the organisation hoped to achieve with the film.
‘Gary Van Duinen’s suicide had a profound effect on myself in 2018,’ said Mr Hamilton.
‘I struggled with suicidal ideology in 2018 and I attempted to take my life that year as well.
‘The catalyst for Gary’s suicide was poker machines. He was addicted, and he couldn’t see any other way to escape his addiction.
‘We felt privileged to listen to some of Gary’s closest people,’ he said. ‘The experience was humbling and very emotional for myself. Gary’s suicide isn’t an anomaly. This happens every day in our country.’
Mr Hamilton said, ‘This film shows what happens when you fall prey to gambling addiction.
‘It also shows how dirty and predatory the gambling industry is, particularly ClubsNSW.’
The new film features moving interviews with Gary ‘Gee’ Van Duinen’s close friends and family, as well as ClubsNSW whistleblower Troy Stolz.
The film also reveals the startlingly unethical behaviour of the club where Mr Van Duinen lost most of his money, treating him as a VIP to encourage further gambling as he slid on an accelerating ride into disaster.
Just the beginning
Since its origins earlier this year, Kickin’ the Punt is growing fast, particularly on Instagram, where it provides a safe place for people who are struggling with poker machine addiction to support one another, not just in the Northern Rivers but Australia-wide.
After years of stagnation, various pokie reforms are now on the table in NSW, due in part to the advocacy of Kickin’ The Punt and other NGOs.
Ben Hamilton, his partner Jasmine and the rest of the Kickin’ The Punt team have more hard-hitting pokie films in the pipeline.
‘This is the first of many films for KTP,’ said Mr Hamilton.
‘The tragic stories are endless, and they will continue to happen unless we change the way society views gambling.
‘We will keep fighting for Gee, and we will continue to have a honest conversation about gambling,’ he said.
If this story has brought up issues for you, please call Lifeline on 131114 or visit them on the net. The Northern Rivers Gambling Counselling Service is here.