Shanna knows a thing or two about tenacity, dedicating herself as an advocate for sobriety in rural communities. Using her own experience as a recovered alcoholic, Shanna founded charity organisation Sober in the Country; a rural health movement which seeks to save lives by teaching Aussies that ‘…it’s okay to say no to a beer…’. In addition to having given a popular TEDx Talk, Shanna was a Finalist for the 2018 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, is a regular voice in the media and will feature on the ABC’s Australian Story on the 18th of November 2019. Shanna and her husband Tim live in Narrabri in north-west New South Wales, though the positive impact of Shanna’s work can be seen and felt all over rural Australia.

When asked what concerned Shanna about the health and safety of those in rural industries, she acknowledged the irrefutable dangers associated with driving – both long distances and / or under the influence of alcohol. In addition to avoiding getting behind the wheel after a few drinks, Shanna recommends maintaining deliberate and regular communication throughout the course of a long-distance trip and guarding against complacency that ‘it won’t happen to me’.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Tenacious, loyal and 100% dag.

Tell me something interesting about yourself...

I am a fellow Finalist of the AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award and I now work as an advocate for rural peers to bring the extremely complex topic of alcohol awareness to the table. Why? Because I – like Alex – am celebrating rural women and rural people; but also campaigning for better services and support for those who feed and clothe the nation.

What's one achievement you are most proud of?

Taking a difficult conversation and making it palatable and inclusive and providing a lifeline for other rural people… and somehow managing that despite any support or funding to date.

What makes you truly happy?

Doing what they said cannot be done and passing on glorious hope to others.

What do you love the most about being a rural woman?

I adore the sense of community and the lack of chaos.

Tell me about a time when you felt worried about your own or someone else’s health, safety or wellbeing on the farm, boat or in some other aspect of rural life.

Easy – drink driving in the bush! That’s what scares me most of all. It’s rampant, it’s ongoing, and it’s killing the people we love. Rural men and women continue to risk driving home across country roads after drinks, despite knowing the dangers. I also worry about my husband and the miles he clocks up driving enormous distances for his work.

What practical things did or could you, your partner and / or others do to prevent someone from getting hurt?

I BEG my husband to tell me his departure and arrival times so somebody knows where he is and can keep a watch on his welfare; but he struggles to understand why forgetting to do that most of the time is scary for me as the person back home who cannot contact him. Technology is a great help but we must use it first (hint-hint, husband!).

"Don’t EVER be complacent and presume it can't or won't ever happen to you."

Is there a time, place or scenario when your partner / workers are more willing to make changes to the way work is done? 

Yes – when I threaten to chase him around the paddock with a big stick if he doesn’t play by the rules!

If you could give any advice to another rural woman about work health and safety in rural industries, about influencing change in business - or just in general - what would it be?

Don’t EVER be complacent and presume it can’t or won’t ever be you.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Yes, I’d like to share that Alex is a bloody legend.

Share your story!

Everybody knows someone who’s been hurt at work in rural industries.

No matter what role you fill or where you come from, we are all responsible for looking out for the health and safety of ourselves and of others.

30 years ago no-one wore seatbelts. Today we do it without even thinking about it.

Join the conversation today.

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