More about our founder, Shanna Whan

Shanna Whan is the rural woman, founder and force behind Sober in the Country.

After almost losing her life to alcohol addiction in “plain sight” of her rural community in 2015, Shanna fought back, survived against all odds, and then chose to dedicate her second chance to speaking the truth about booze in the bush. She's dedicated the better part of a decade to advocacy, awareness, and simply leading the change she saw was so clearly and desperately needed in rural Australia.

From extremely humble beginnings as a volunteer rebuilding her life from ground zero at the age of 40, Shanna has relentlessly stayed the course thanks to the unwavering support of her husband, Tim. Shanna has delivered a clear and consistent message that isn't anti-alcohol but all about alcohol harm and how we can better take care of each other in the outback where isolation is our norm and where every social gathering hinges on the pub.

Shanna has been regularly featured on national radio and television – from SBS Insight to Australian Story and countless panel discussions – and is regularly called upon as the pioneer and lived-experience expert of addiction in the rural sector.

Over the years, she's been the recipient of various awards and accolades, most recently in 2022 as Australian of the Year 'Local Hero' and Marie Claire's Advocate of the Year. Shanna travels upon invitation all over Australia as a keynote speaker to deliver the work, message, and education that Sober in the Country has fine-tuned. Shanna chooses to donate her speaker fees to the charity as an income stream.

Shanna lives in north-western New South Wales with her husband, Tim, and her beloved fur friends Mallee (the blue heeler) and Biscuit (the Jack Russell and undisputed boss). 

This year, she has embarked upon a much-anticipated memoir, which she plans to release in 2025.

I’ve been fortunate to hear Shanna speak at a few major events this year, and she never fails to deliver the most amazing speech. I’ve watched the crowd shed a tear, laugh hard and sit in awe at the extraordinary tenacity of this amazing woman. Every speech is delivered with raw, genuine and inspiring storytelling. Shanna brings a “Bridget Jones” humour and approach to looking at her own life with profound authenticity whilst delivering the crucial message that we in the bush must support our mates when they say “no thanks”. Shanna’s own story might be about sobriety, but her call to action is about how we support those around us so that they can live their best lives; such an important message to hear in a time when the world has so much chaos in it. Shanna leaves the audience connected to Sober in the Country in ways that may be subtle, through to profound – and I have no doubt that with every speech she helps at least one person in the room battling alcohol harm or [to become] better equipped to support someone who is.

Pip Job, National Rural Woman of the Year 2014