Gambling Harm Awareness Week Profile - Ben Tafau

Ben Tafau - Te Hiringa Hauora

This month we caught up with Ben Tafau, from Te Hiringa Hauora, to korero about Gambling Harm Awareness Week (GHAW) and the development of this year's campaign.

Ko wai koe?
No hea koe?

Talofa lava, kia ora koutou, my name is Ben Tafau and I’m the Acting Manager for the Minimising Gambling Harm Programme at Te Hiringa Hauora Health Promotion Agency. I’m originally from Tokoroa in the South Waikato, but have spent most of my adult life in Wellington where I currently live. 

What is your role within the Problem Gambling space?

As the Acting Manager for the Minimising Gambling Harm programme, my role is to lead and support the MGH team to:

  • Provide messaging, research, tools and research to help our communities recognise gambling harm within themselves and their whānau/friends, check their gambling and take action to manage their gambling (including help-seeking from PMGH services). 
  • Support frontline PMGH services in the promotion of their services and key messages to the community around minimising gambling harm
  • Support a safer gambling environment by promoting the use of appropriate harm minimisation practices in environments such as pubs and clubs with pokie machines.

What’s happening at Te Hiringa Hauora? How has COVID-19 changed how you work?

We have been busy adjusting to the new ‘post-COVID’ environment, both in the way that we work and what we are delivering in our work. During lockdown we had to respond to the increase in online gambling, and ensure people were aware of the services that were still available to help them manage their gambling – all while working from home over Zoom meetings! After lockdown we’ve been looking to continue flexible working arrangements where possible to better balance our work-life wellbeing.

What is GHAW and how did it begin?

Gamble Harm Awareness Week is a time each year to highlight the impacts of gambling harm in our communities, and promote key messages and support that people can access if they or their loved ones are experiencing gambling harm.

What have been some learnings/challenges you’ve experienced during GHAW?

In previous years, we have focused on themes such as taking time out from gambling and spending time with whānau. One of the things we’ve learned is that we need to ensure our messaging is inclusive as possible to appeal to all who may be experiencing gambling harm, so that they feel the messages are relevant to them. 

We’ve had a number of key messages in previous years, which we’ve learned can be overwhelming when deciding what to communicate to our communities. Focusing on a few core messages that are really clear and easy to understand is where we are looking to move towards. 

There’s also been a number of ‘call to actions’ where we’ve encouraged people to reach out to services, talk to friends and whānau, call the helpline, take the quiz, visit the website, social media etc., so we’ve been looking at how we can simplify this to make things easier for our communities to understand and take action. 

How have you incorporated these learnings into this year’s GHAW?

This year, we’ve decided to focus on promoting the frontline community services, and the free counselling services that are available, with a call to action to visit the website to find a local gambling support service near them. It also acknowledges the post-lockdown environment and that things have been hard for a lot of people, so to focus on taking care of their wellbeing by accessing support if them or their whānau/friends are experiencing gambling harm.

What can the PGPH sector expect to see in this year’s GHAW campaign?

The focus for Gambling Harm Awareness Week 2020 is to:

  • Acknowledge that this year has been a tough year and that help and support is available.
  • Promote services by highlighting that “FREE Counselling Sessions” are available for individuals and concerned others.
  • Promote that counselling is local, confidential and professional.

There will be a pack going out to services this year which will include promotional posters, silicone phone wallet card holders and card inserts with GHAW info and space for services to personalise and include their service details. We will also be promoting key GHAW messages on social media through the Choice Not Chance Facebook page. 

The goal is to promote services as much as possible during GHAW. The promotional activity is to let whānau and communities know that you are there to awhi and support them through problem gambling issues. We look forward to continuing to work with you to reduce the impact of gambling harm in our communities.

Where can we go for more information?

Contact Ben Tafau, Acting Manager Minimising Gambling Harm at 


For more information about resources to support the PMGH Sector during GHAW 2020 click here