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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

  • Fears and concerns before the challenge

  • How her perceptions of risk and adventure have changed

  • Is the risk too much?

  • Why it was such a rewarding experience

  • Raising money for Lifeline in Australia

  • Adjusting back to normal life

  • Raising awareness about mental health and suicide prevention

  • Finding the right people who can hear you

  • The power of writing and journaling and getting your feelings out of your body

  • Doing her PHD and how it came about

  • Applying for a Churchill Fellowship

  • Making a contribution to the world and making it a better place

  • Wanting to write another book - with a focus on the underlying concepts of her PHD

  • How we can use our experiences in live to grow and become better versions of ourself.

  • Dealing with injury and not being able to any sports that she loves

  • Letting go of the identify of being an athlete and a firefighter

  • Needing to reflect inwards and spending time on meditation

  • How you can connect with Tara

  • Final words of advice - Stay curious, with compassion for yourself.

  • “Be driven by your passions and not your fears”


Social Media

Instagram: @tarajlal

Facebook: Tara J Lal

Twitter: @tarajlal

YouTube: Tara J Lal

Support Resources

Australia: LifeLine

You are not alone. We're here to listen. Every 30 seconds, a person in Australia reaches out to Lifeline for help.

We are a national charity providing all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services. We exist so that no person in Australia has to face their darkest moments alone.

Call 13 11 14

UK: Samaritans

Whatever you're going through, a Samaritan will face it with you. We're here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Call Free - 116 123

America: 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline

The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States. We're committed to improving crisis services and advancing suicide prevention by empowering individuals, advancing professional best practices, and building awareness.

Call 988 - Please note, the previous 1-800-273-TALK (8255) number will continue to function indefinitely.

Website -


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