Bush sobriety advocate named Australia’s Local Hero for 2022
This year’s Australia Day Local Hero has helped countless people in the bush tackle their alcohol problems and is looking to change the way the nation deals with drinking.
After struggling herself with alcohol addiction and subsequently quitting drinking, Shanna Whan founded grassroots charity Sober in the Country to help others on a similar path.
“Let’s be honest about the fact that Australia’s got a bit of a drinking problem,” the 47-year-old told the awards ceremony.
“It’s honestly more acceptable to be drunk in the country than it is to be sober.”
A teary-eyed Ms Whan dedicated the award to those “choosing bush sunrises over hangovers” and to her husband Tim.
From initially acting as a local support network, the organisation achieved national reach and now plays a leading role in broadscale advocacy and education.
Some may recognise Ms Whan from a 2019 appearance on ABC’s Australian Story - an episode that struck a chord with many and helped boost her profile and advocacy work even further.
“Alcohol use is the silent pandemic we are not discussing,” Ms Whan said.
“Life in rural Australia is permanent iso. We’ve always got enough beers in the fridge, but we’ve never got enough services or support.”
From there, to hitting rock bottom and eventually giving up drinking all together, Ms Whan believes her own experience of talking to someone with a similar problem could help others find a better life too.
“Through connection and community we create social change,” she said.
Having donated about 20,000 hours to the cause, Ms Whan now travels on invitation as the spokesperson for her organisation.
It means tirelessly appearing on multiple major national media platforms, from paddocks to conference halls - something she has always done with an infectious smile on her face.
Throughout it all, her message has remained clear and simple: As her charity campaign states, it’s “OK to say no” to booze.
“Be a good mate. Don’t question or bully someone else’s choices,” she said.
“I dream of the day that everyone in the bush knows that it’s OK to say no to a beer.”
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