Alumni Services

Tara Lal

Alongside being a full-time firefighter, physiology graduate Tara Lal is a mental health advocate, PhD researcher, author and surf boat rower.

Name Tara Lal
Degree 

BSc (Hons) Physiology

Year of Graduation 1994

Your time at the University

Tara Lal

I had an incredibly tough last few years at school. My mother had died, my father was hospitalised with mental illness and my brother took his own life during my final year at school. My aunt lived in Edinburgh and I was struggling with the grief that engulfed me. I needed her support, so Edinburgh was my first choice. I loved the four years I spent there.

Edinburgh gave me time out from grief. It gave me the chance to be ‘normal’ again. I made good friends, I learned how to wind-surf and I felt like a regular 20-year-old. I went on a voluntary expedition with other Edinburgh students to do community work in South Africa for one summer holiday. So many good memories and life lessons.

Edinburgh changed my life in so many ways, almost none of which were related to my actual field of study. About ten years ago, one of my closest friends from Edinburgh, who I have since travelled the world with, introduced me to a friend of hers who had also studied at Edinburgh. The first time we met she said, “I remember the back of your head from lab class at King's Buildings!” She is now one of my closest friends and is a Professor of Public Health at Sydney University undertaking some amazing work. We have recently started collaborating on potential projects based on mental health. The positive ripple effect of my time at Edinburgh radiates throughout my life. It will always hold a piece of my heart and I am forever grateful for the time I spent there and the people I met.

Your experiences since leaving the University

My life has been full of surprises since leaving Edinburgh. In my final year, I took a careers test in Appleton Tower. It threw up ‘fireman’ as my number one occupation and ‘physiotherapist’ as number two. I didn’t realise then how defining that 60-minute test would be.

I had a round-the-world air ticket booked soon after leaving Edinburgh. I arrived in Sydney, Australia in March 1995 for what was to be a three-month stay. 24 years later I’m still here.

I went back to university and became a physiotherapist. Then in 2005 I became a firefighter. In 2009 I started writing a book about mine and my brother’s lives and how I made peace with a traumatic childhood. It changed my life and was published in 2015 in the UK and Australia, in France in 2017 and in China this year.

I now do a lot of work in mental health alongside my full-time work as a firefighter. I write articles and speak publicly about my experiences of grief and suicide. I am a mental health first aid instructor and a volunteer speaker for the mental health charity Beyond Blue.

I am also a researcher and PhD candidate. My research focuses on the impact of suicide on firefighters. I am the recipient of the first Rotary Emergency Services postgraduate scholarship for mental health. In 2017 I was a finalist in the Rotary Inspirational Women Awards.

In 2018 at the age of 47 I received my first and only Australian representative cap in my sport of surf boat rowing.

If anyone had told me back in 1994 when I left Edinburgh that I would move to Australia, write and publish a book, become a firefighter, undertake a PhD and represent Australia at 47 years old, I would never have believed them.

If anyone had told me back in 1994 when I left Edinburgh that I would move to Australia, write and publish a book, become a firefighter, undertake a PhD and represent Australia at 47 years old, I would never have believed them.

Tara Lal

Alumni wisdom

Embrace your time and every opportunity you have at University. You never know where it will take you. Invest your energy in friendships and interests as well as study. Live life to its fullest. Learn how to be the best you that you can be and don’t place too much importance on your academic results. It’s the process not the outcome that teaches you the most. Your results don’t define you. How you live your life, finding your truth and living it does. Follow that path.

Related links

Tara Lal's website (external site)