A one-time pokies addict who turned her harmful habit into gambling research will represent Victoria University in an international contest for PhD students.
Gabriela Byrne beat five other VU finalists for a $1000 top prize in the University’s annual Three-Minute Thesis competition. Contestants are judged on how well they present the essence of their doctoral research to a non-academic audience.
Her win means she will compete at Brisbane’s University of Queensland next month against champions from other universities across Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong for a shot at a $5000 first prize.
Gabriela, a Drysdale resident, explained her PhD thesis entitled Preventing Problem Gambling Relapse through Social Inclusion by associating the experiences of gamblers to a ride on a never-ending roller-coaster that participants are desperate to get off.
Since beating her own addiction several years ago, Gabriela has been developing and managing projects that support other problem gamblers.
Her Free Yourself Program has sold more than 10,000 copies since its publication in 1997, while her Dare to Connect relapse-prevention program now helps problem-gamblers across Melbourne’s west and north through volunteer support and weekly social outings.
Her programs address the reason many problem gamblers relapse: they are so consumed with gambling they have lost the skills to socialise and the ability to enjoy other recreational activities.
She said about 70% of the estimated 200,000 Victorians who suffer from problem gambling relapse after quitting or cutting back because they are not socially connected.
Gabriela is in the final year of her PhD candidature in VU’s College of Business. She is supervised by VU’s Dr James Doughney, also an academic expert in gambling, and the University of Melbourne’s Professor Alun Jackson.
Three–Minute Thesis or 3MT was launched at the University of Queensland in 2008. Since 2011, the popularity of the competition has increased, and 3MT competitions are now held in over 600 universities and institutions across 59 countries worldwide.