THE SHORT EDIT
Shanna Whan is the creator, founder, and CEO of Sober in the Country Ltd. She describes herself as just a regular girl from the country with a story that's actually ridiculously common. The only thing perhaps unique about Shan, she says, is that she chooses to speak publicly and candidly about overcoming alcoholism in order to raise overdue awareness and to fight for others in the overlooked demographic that is regional and rural Australia.
THE LONGER VERSION
Sober in the Country (SITC) was born from one outback woman's near-death experience as an ‘’invisible alcoholic’’ who was so high-functioning that she was plummeting towards death in front of her community while living a double-life as a business woman by day, and a derelict behind closed doors after 5:00pm.
This charity is now her life's work and mission to keep opening up the conversations around 'casual alcoholic drinking' in the rural space and to continue leading the changes we need to see.
That woman is founder and now CEO Shanna Whan (pictured above) and it was her common experience, struggles, recovery, and complete inability to access adequate help or support in the process that would inspire her to spend five years working voluntarily full-time to crack open an incredibly difficult conversation by ''going first'' and thereby giving permission to a tsunami of others to come after her who could also be vulnerable and raw and step up in their own truth, often for the first time in their life.
The Regional Woman of the Year finalist (2020) and Rural Woman of the Year finalist (2017) is passionate about sustainable people in the regional space. She is speaking up on behalf of a vast number of hard working rural men and women constantly dismissed by society, health professionals, and friends as needing support because they appear, superficially, to be ‘’okay’’ ... the same men and women who are reluctant to ask for a leg-up in their own time of need, but cruelly - aren't able to find anything adequate when they are brave enough to ask.
Shanna has worked tirelessly and fearlessly to not only speak truth, but to walk a fine line where she makes it clear that SITC isn't about prohibition or demonising alcohol use; rather it's focused on affecting positive cultural change for our mates who can't safely enjoy a drink - and creating a society in which they're included, too. She knows better than anyone the critical nature of staying connected in the bush and that our social networks are more often than not built around wine with the girls, a ''beer and a BBQ'' or a quick schooner at the pub. SITC is aiming to simply make it OK when friends within those networks decline alcohol and to create a truly inclusive and tolerant future rural culture where alcohol consumption is no longer the yardstick by which we measure our mates.
In 2019 her honest and authentic brand of conversation went international thanks to an episode on Australian Story, and all her years of hard work in the face of constant knockbacks and hurdles are now paying off as she effectively reaches others by simply relentlessly and consistently breaking down one of Australia’s most complex and fragile conversations nationally through - as she says - nothing more than honesty, humour, hard slog, and an utterly fierce determination to help others.
In addition to her broadscale advocacy and social impact through the charity, Shanna is also calling upon our state and federal MP's to look west of The Great Divide and to collaborate with those people on the ground - who have valuable lived experience - to address the looming and real issue of global food security COVID-19 has thrust into the spotlight. She says that Australia has a limited source of highly skilled men and women to draw upon and that we must escalate our focus on ‘’sustainable people’’ in the same way we focus on ‘’sustainable agricultural systems’’ and that the future of Australia literally lies within ensuring we get that done, and quickly.