Recovered alcoholic and Sober in the Country founder Shanna Whan is Australia's Local Hero for 2022.
The 47-year-old from the northern NSW regional centre of Narrabri nearly died from her addiction in 2015 before getting sober and focusing on supporting others.
"Alcohol use is the silent pandemic we are not discussing," she told the Australian of the Year Awards in Canberra on Tuesday night, when she received her award.
"Harm from booze walks hand-in-hand with all the big health, mental health, and farm safety issues that we face in the bush.
"But still, we persist in treating this common problem like a dirty little secret, rather than the real, visible health crisis it is."
Ms Whan said alcohol use leads to the death of about 6000 people a year and costs Australian taxpayers some $35 billion annually.
"Rural people are worth fighting for, because they get up and they show up in fire and flood and droughts and plagues and pandemics," she said.
"And they put food on the nation's table. So the least we can do as a nation is make sure that they're getting support when they look for it."
National Australia Day Council chair Danielle Roche labelled Ms Whan an inspiring and tireless local hero who turned her battle into a force for good.
"Her Sober in the Country movement is changing lives across remote and rural Australia," Ms Roche said.
Ms Whan was nominated alongside ACT youth support worker Luke Ferguson, Queensland community leader Saba Abraham, and Northern Territory event organiser and fundraiser Rebecca Forrest.
Fellow finalists also included Lymphoedema Association SA Inc president Monique Bareham, Mallacoota State Emergency Service volunteer Leo op den Brouw and Tasmanian community volunteer Kimberley Smith.
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
Australian Associated Press
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.