• soberinthecountry

Australian of the Year Local Hero Award acceptance speech - Shanna Whan

Many of you have asked for the transcript of the speech, so, here 'tis:

You can never question the God-given right of someone enjoying a few beers in the bush. And that’s not what I do. But as a mate, you can respect someone’s choice to say no thanks, or just ‘not today’.

I’ve walked the tightrope of this conversation for the last seven years while speaking the truth about surviving my alcohol addiction, and establishing Sober in the Country.

I do it because someone had to go first. I do it because someone sharing their truth with me saved my life. And I do it because you all know my story is not unique.

Alcohol use is the silent pandemic we aren’t discussing. And it is a pandemic that’s exponentially exploding with COVID - no matter your postcode.

Addiction looks the same all over the country - but what you might not know is that bush people are 150% more likely to experience harm from alcohol - and only 17% of us will get help.

Harm from booze walks hand in hand with all the big health, mental health and farm safety issues we face in the bush…. but still, we persist in treating this common problem like a dirty secret, rather than the real health crisis it is.

Do you know 6,000 of us will die this year because of alcohol?

And that 160,000 of us will end up in hospital?

Taxpayers, you’ll spend about $35 billion footing the bill.

It’s easier to just get drunk than be sober in the bush. It’s more acceptable to get drunk than be sober in the bush.

But fortunately, the priority in the bush is being a good mate.

And that’s the message behind our #OK2SAYNO campaign – be a good mate … don’t question or bully someone’s choices. You do you, but give a mate space to do what they need to.

Life in rural Australia is life in permanent ISO. We always have plenty of beer in the fridge… but never enough services and support close by.

That was my reality, and that’s the reality of the people I am fighting for.

And rural people are worth fighting for …because they keep getting up and showing up in floods and droughts, and plagues and pandemics to put food on the nation’s table … so the least we can do as a nation is make sure they can get support if they ask for it.

This is dedicated to those of you choosing bush sunrises over hangovers - and to you, Timbo, for helping me believe I was worth fighting for ….

ends //

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