Rethinking Addiction in Australia

Monday, May 10, 2021

On May 6, the Rethink Addiction campaigners hosted a sell-out event, ‘Rethinking Addiction in Australia’, at Federation Square, the first major event for the campaign since its inception in November last year.

Almost 300 people attended to listen to an inspiring group of panellists, including former AFL footballer Dayne Beams, Sober in the Country CEO, Shanna Whan, Addicted Australia producer, Jacob Hickey, and Turning Point Executive Clinical Director, Professor Dan Lubman, AM.

It was a powerful and honest discussion led by the formidable Sally Rugg, Executive Director of, who moderated the event.

Jacob Hickey introduced clips from the Addicted Australia series, which looked back at some of the most compelling moments from the documentary and steered the conversation between panel members on the making of the series, the stereotypes and misconceptions of addiction, the value of peer support, and the need for Australia to rethink addiction.

Reflecting on the Addicted Australia series and his own personal struggles with addiction, and the impact that had on his family, former AFL footballer, Dayne Beams said;

“My sister sent me a message after the series and said to me she felt like she could understand more of what I was going through, and that was comforting to know.”

Shanna Whan, who also has a lived experience of addiction, highlighted the difficulties for those living in rural and regional areas.

“Unfortunately we are dragging our heels in the bush, not because we are intentionally trying to be less interested, we are just so isolated, we live in permanent iso.”

Sober in the Country, one of the many organisations partnering with the Rethink Addiction campaign, is working to spread the message to those living in the bush.

Also in attendance were several other Rethink Addiction campaign partner organisations, a list that has now grown to over 40.

Moderator Sally Rugg outlined to the audience the four primary asks of the campaign, including:

  • That addiction be established as a national priority.
  • That a summit be convened federally for a meaningful knowledge exchange between addiction experts and policy makers.
  • For a national plan and roadmap to be drafted to address addiction.
  • For the establishment of a dedicated addiction research fund.

The evening concluded with Professor Lubman announcing that one of those asks was already well on its way to being achieved.

“We started this campaign because the system is broken. We are pleased to announce the first National Summit of Addiction in Canberra will be in August. It’s a great opportunity to make some noise and start a national conversation,” he said.