I know you, but you might not know me – how rude! I never introduced myself.
I’m Isy, an activist, unofficial president of The Whitlams fan club, a hopeless outdoors lover, with a burning disdain for the gambling industry. My face is the face behind the posts you see on our social media, the emails delivered to your inbox, and our colourful website. I have been the Digital Campaigner at the Alliance for the past 1.5 years.
I’m from WA, where I was shielded from the regular occurrence of poker machines in everyday life. I never knew how much of a privilege it was to walk down the street without the beckoning of flashing lights and “VIP” attraction. When I moved to Sydney it never crossed my mind that I could even enter those “VIP” areas; as naive as it seems, my first reaction was that these were coveted places for the wealthy and famous of Sydney who frequented these pubs. I wasn’t a “very important person”, just a person trying to have an evening of beers and laughs with friends. How obliviously wrong I was. Oblivious to the harm, the stories of survivors, and the absolute inaction from all levels of government.
One lucky ticket later, another dedicated Whitlams fan by my side, and a two-hour public transport trek to a gig in Narrabeen, Sydney, Blow Up The Pokies was sung unlike how I heard it on my 'Australian Classics' playlist on Spotify. My discomfort was overwhelming as I glanced over to the pokies section of the RSL. Here was a man singing about the devastating impacts the pokies had on his former bandmate, confronted with the reality in front of his eyes decades later. The irony didn’t phase me as I thought about the sold-out show and how hard it was to get a ticket. Was it sold out because the little suburb of Narrabeen had an infatuation with the band? Maybe. Could it be because the stage had been cut in half, resulting in a decreased capacity to make room for the pokies in the corner? More likely.
Mining ran my home state but it was clear pokies ran the east coast. I hadn’t realised the similarities of the patterns of inequality in both industries. It was only when I started this role, that I heard it all. Pokies are the number one contributor of inequality in Australia . They don’t bring jobs to the communities that desperately need them , they disproportionately affect migrant and working class communities , and the government and industry is just a revolving door of big execs on an even bigger salary; “If the pokies were just a bit of harmless fun, Packer would have a nice house in the suburbs, not a Los Angeles mansion, and two-year-old Kia, not a $200 million superyacht.”  End of rant.
I know we just met, but it is with a heavy heart that I bid farewell now. May I say it’s been an absolute privilege taking action with you on gambling reform. I’m off to work on an issue just as important as gambling reform; protecting our natural environment and staving off the threat of climate change.
I can tell you sincerely however that I can’t wait for the moment when together we blow up the pokies and drag them away. 👋