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Gambling addicts need friends

A one-time pokies addict who turned her harmful habit into gambling research is helping dozens of problem gamblers in Melbourne’s west and north.

Since beating her own addiction several years ago, Victoria University PhD candidate Gabriela Byrne has been developing and managing projects and research 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 and research 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 75% of the estimated 200,000 Victorians who suffer from problem gambling relapse after quitting or cutting back because they are not socially connected.

Gabriela was recently awarded top prize for describing her research best in the University’s annual Three-Minute Thesis competition, a contest in which PhD students are judged on how well they present the essence of their research to a non-academic audience.

She beat out nine other VU finalists for a $1000 top prize, and will now 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.

She described her thesis, entitled Preventing Problem Gambling Relapse through Social Inclusion,

by linking it to a famous ‘rat park’ study that showed drug-addicted rats would not continue consuming drugs if they were placed in an enriched environment.

Gabriela is in the fourth year of her PhD candidature in the College of Business.

She is supervised by VU’s Dr James Doughney and the University of Melbourne’s Professor Alun Jackson.

A photo of Gabriela Byrne is available. She is available for interview on 0428 304 041.

Media Contact: Ann Marie Angebrandt: 03 9919 5487, 0401 100 576 or [email protected]



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