MaryanneIntroducing Maryanne Lee, Counsellor, Problem Gambling Foundation Services

Tell us a little about yourself, who are you and what is your role?

I am originally from England and grew up in Australia, arriving in New Zealand in 1987 with 4 small children.

Having lived through the practical aspects of AOD in my own life, I decided to learn the theory and began working for the Salvation Army in Nelson, where I studied from 1998. I have since worked in a range of AOD and mental health services in Aotearoa and experienced the Outback (Australia’s best kept secret), in Coober Pedy, Broome and Fitzroy Crossing.

I was given a wonderful opportunity setting up and co-ordinating a dual diagnosis service in Murwillumbah, NSW, which was a fantastic experience. After 2-years I needed to return home to New Zealand, where I currently work for PGF Services. (The Problem Gambling Foundation is now trading as PGF Group. PGF Services, Mapu Maia Pasifika Service and Asian Family Services are part of PGF Group).

This mahi involves providing petipeti whakararu (gambling support) clinics in Rotorua and Tauranga.

Gambling as the primary struggle was new to me, as I believed it was ‘just another addiction’. This has been a real eye opener!

How do you see yourself supporting the Mental Health & Addiction sector and how can we in turn support you?

Until joining this mahi I never realised the extent of gambling’s secretive power - the lies and destruction to our Tāngata Whaiora, whānau and loved ones. Its problems are minimised in communities and can often be overlooked in AOD and mental health services, as other addictions take priority. Many feel too shamed to bring this up during an assessment. I would like to help shed a light on this and be heard.

What would you like to achieve working alongside various people in Mental Health & Addiction services?

To assist to bring harmful gambling to the forefront. I remember the days when nicotine was normal and how this has changed through the hard work of the health sector. I would like to see gambling awareness and harm recognised in a similar way and have more exposure which is the goal of petipeti whakararu (PGF).

If you could change one thing in the Health Sector, what would that be?

Community awareness, along with further education for practitioners and improved assessment tools in services.

What is your favourite “whakatauki – words of wisdom”?

“Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care” (Teddy Roosevelt)

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PGF Services in Lockdown

We asked Maryanne what effects the COVID-19 Level 4 Lockdown had had on her service and the whānau that they serve.

One of the unexpected outcomes was that many clients are pleased that they cannot use the pokies and are saving money, although we have noticed an increase in online gambling advertisements, particularly on Facebook. Other countries are reporting increases in online gambling over this time.

We have had to adapt to changes to the way we work and communicate within the organisation. PGF Services are providing support via phone, e-mail and video conference. We will soon be introducing live chat.

PGF health promoters are using new and innovative ways to raise awareness of gambling harm by using social media and other online tools to communicate messages.

More clients are wanting to install GAMBAN (a device-based online gaming-blocker) on their phones, initiate venue self-exclusions (from physical gambling) and wanting to address other issues, i.e. smoking, relationships and goal setting.

Our teams throughout the regions are in communication with one another e.g. our Northern team holds Zoom updates daily. This provides a great level of support for those who seek it.

Maryanne Lee (PGF Services)


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