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Tara J. Lal - Firefighter, mental health researcher, speaker and author

Renata Chlumska  - Adventure athlete who became the first Swedish and Czech woman to climb Mount Everest and in 2005 did a circumnavigate of the lower 48 States of the United States by her own power.

Tara in her own words:

“I don’t really think of myself as tough. I’ve always loved adventures. I did my first expedition when I was 18 and it ignited a passion. I am now a firefighter. I’ve represented Australia in my slightly crazy sport of surf boat rowing at the age of 47 and I cycled 5000 km’s unsupported across Australia in 2021, yet I often think that the toughest challenges of my life have not been physical.

Rather it has been the journey to heal the relationship with myself after a traumatic childhood that has been the toughest challenge I have undertaken.

Writing my book ‘Standing on my Brothers Shoulders – making peace with grief and suicide’ was a huge part of that journey. It challenged me in every way possible but was also one of my greatest teachers and proudest achievements.

Although I am a physiotherapist and firefighter, my book led me to work in the field of mental health and wellbeing. I am now nearing the end of a PhD exploring the impact of suicide on firefighters.

In 2017, I was a finalist in the Rotary Inspirational woman of the year awards and in January 2022, as part of the Australia Day Honours, I was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM), which recognises distinguished service by an Australian Fire Service member for my work supporting suicide prevention and mental health of firefighters.

I think life is an adventure and it can take many forms!”

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Show notes

  • Who is Tara

  • Her different jobs and interests

  • Moving to Sydney in the mid 1990s

  • Having a thirst for adventures

  • Deciding to join Fire & Rescue in 2005

  • Going on her own healing journey

  • Losing her mother to cancer at 13

  • Losing her brother to suicide at 17

  • Struggling to deal with the loss

  • Writing her life story down

  • Moving into the mental health space

  • In 2018 starting her PHD looking at the impact of suicide on firefighters

  • Making the decision to move to Australia

  • What it was like joining the fire service 17 years ago

  • Having mixed memories and feeling the need to prove herself to the men

  • Starting her healing journey in her early 30s and what it looked like

  • Starting to have compassion for herself

  • How the outdoors have helped with her recovery

  • Going on an expedition to Zimbabwe in 1989 and how everything changed

  • Realising that she could be happy again

  • Deciding to cycle across Australia

  • Cycling with Sarah Davis

  • Cycling from the most Western point of Australia over to Byron Bay the most easterly point.

  • Being head of communication for the expedition

  • The challenges of cycling on the roads with the road-trains