Gamarada: an inside view

I am a 36-year-old Aboriginal father who was addicted to
gambling and alcohol since the age of 18.

I just thought alcohol and gambling were rewards I would
give myself after work and in my spare time. Then the alcohol took control and
my life became unmanageable.

It was after I was convicted for another alcohol-related
offence that I knew I had hit rockbottom.  I found a men’s support group called Gamarada in October 2008
and that really started the healing process for me.

Throughout the past 18 months Gamarada has provided me with
a healthy space where I could share my story and learn with other men. In
return, they have rewarded me with the tools I need to live a healthy, happy,
loving and honest lifestyle.

It was only recently that I found myself in front of a
magistrate at Waverley Courthouse and she had prepared for the sheriff to sit
on my case, which only spelt one thing: gaol.

Standing there with my partner and kids I honestly knew I
was a changed man and prayed the Magistrate would see this too.  Well, when she read my references, she
said on a number of occasions that the reference Ken Zulumovski wrote was a
very good one.  She said she had
never seen somebody put in so much effort to turn his life around.  She spent the next 20 minutes
giving praise to me.  She spoke to
the police officers in the court room, the court room staff, the sheriff, my
legal team and than she personally addressed my family members, asking them if
they liked who I am today.

The Magistrate then told me I should be working in her
courthouse doing something to help not just black people but white people too.  I started to get embarrassed (shame)
because I’ve never been given that much praise before from a stranger.  Then she asked the prosecution for their
case.  They referred to Ken
Zulumovski’s reference and back peddled.  At that moment I could see all my fellow Gamarada comrades
and all my other support networks sitting in the courtroom with me.

The Magistrate gave me no conviction and ordered me to keep
attending Gamarada and Alcoholics Anonymous.  She said ‘I am not going to give you community service
because you’re already doing it’.

I am thankful for where I am today and I promise to continue
to attend my support groups and keep the healing process going on for myself
and to help fellow Gamarada comrades. Thanks to all of you. God bless.

– Leo Wright, Gamarada participant

Photo by David Otott of Gamarada launch.

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