Hello Sunday Morning is delighted to announce NSW Rural Woman of the Year finalist Shanna Whan as our new ambassador for rural Australia.
Shanna has spent her life living remotely or rurally, and through her own battle with alcohol addiction, has seen how desperate the lack of honest discussion about alcohol, and services is away from the big centres.
‘Invisible’ rural Australians are slipping through the cracks of our mental health care system: people who will often be high-functioning but maintain an unhealthy relationship with alcohol – or are in chronic addiction – but still working full time. Men and women who are dismissed by society (and often health care professionals) as ‘’having a problem’’ because the rest of their life is, at least superficially, continuing normally.
For the past four years Shanna has been working in a voluntary capacity through her online platform Sober in the Country to facilitate real conversations, information, and awareness to support her rural peers.
‘Up to 500,000 people live rurally and remotely, and in the four years I’ve investigated and worked in this space I have not come across a single health initiative geared to rural life that address the taboo topic of alcohol abuse.
‘’This strikes me as an enormous gap in our health care models. It’s 2018, and despite all our advances in technology and health care there are horrifying truths about the lack of acknowledgement and support in this space.
‘’I speak to people daily across rural and regional Australia who are messaging me to express their relief that ‘’finally, somebody is bringing this conversation to light out here…’’ and they say that they’re so thrilled to see some real, relatable conversations happening.
Shanna says it’s all about driving awareness in a previously taboo area, and collaborating with existing health care professionals and organisations to close this gap and bring support to those least likely to ask for it.
‘’As we battle ongoing climate change and drought conditions – our rural families and workforce are in greater need than ever for affordable, accessible, relatable information.
Since 2017 Shanna has been invited and sponsored to travel rural and remote Australia and has gathered a national profile through her presentations and discussions across regional communities and health forums. She has recorded a TED talk which will be released soon through TedX Canberra, and she’s appeared on national TV, radio, and in metropolitan & rural newspapers.
Shanna says that with the challenges totally unique and specific to the agricultural, farming, and rural sectors, the conversations need to be driven by somebody who has lived in that community and understands its nuances.
As a kid who grew up on a large-scale farming enterprise and went on to live and work across regional Australia in a corporate agriculture capacity – then later as a journalist and speaker – she is well equipped for the task.
Having come through her own battles with trauma, PTSD, infertility, and a subsequent slide into depression and severe alcohol abuse, and finally high functioning alcoholism – she is using the worst times of her life to empower and help others who feel they’re alone in what she now knows is an extremely common struggle.
Shanna’s peer support work is gathering national momentum Through Sober In The Country and she’s constantly working on ways to better reach and support others.
“It’s a known fact that those best equipped to support others in this complex area are those with lived experience. So I knew once I’d made a full recovery to health myself that I had to be part of the urgent change Australia needs to see.
“A few years ago I started following Hello Sunday Morning and I quickly saw that their ideas and mission were basically in-line with what I was doing at a rural level. ‘
“Given that Hello Sunday Morning has up to 25% rural members, it’s just a perfect fit. And I think those rural members will gain huge benefit from having a spokesperson and ambassador who’s walked in their shoes and has an intrinsic understanding of the nuances and challenges of rural living versus what faces our city and coastal cousins.
Shanna lives in rural New South Wales with her husband Tim and their fur-kid and best mate, blue heeler ‘’Flea.’’