Our Ambassadors

Fortem ambassadors are committed to supporting the wellbeing and mental fitness of first responder families. Our ambassadors share their messages and lived experiences to highlight the importance of building mental fitness and protective factors for long-term health and wellbeing.

Tony Abbott

Tony Abbott AC

The Hon Tony Abbott AC served as Prime Minister of Australia for two years, from 2013 to 2015.

He understands the experience of the first responder community, as he serves as a Deputy Captain with the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade and does surf patrols with the Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club.

Watch Tony introduce Peak Fortem, our online mental fitness toolkit.

Since 1998, he has convened the Pollie Pedal annual charity bike ride which has raised nearly $7 million. In the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was appointed as a Companion in the Order of Australia for his eminent service to the people and Parliament of Australia, particularly as Prime Minister.

Tony served as the member for Warringah in the Australian parliament between 1994 and 2019. Prior to entering parliament, he was a journalist with The Australian, a senior adviser to opposition leader John Hewson, and director of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy. He has degrees in economics and law from Sydney University and in politics and philosophy from Oxford which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar. He is a Member of the Australian War Memorial Council, a Director of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, and an advisor to the UK Board of Trade.

Since 1998, he has convened the Pollie Pedal annual charity bike ride which has raised nearly $7 million for organisations such as Soldier On and Carers Australia. He still does surf patrols with the Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club and serves as a Deputy Captain with the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade. In the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours he was appointed as a Companion in the Order of Australia for his eminent service to the people and Parliament of Australia, particularly as Prime Minister, and through significant contributions to trade, border control, and to the Indigenous community.

He is married to Margaret and they are the parents of three daughters – Louise, Frances and Bridget.

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Ben Alexander

Ben Alexander is a former Rugby Union player who represented Australia and the ACT. He played 72 times for the Wallabies, and retired as the ACT Brumbies “most capped player” with 152 games. Alongside former teammate Scott Fardy, Ben is a co-owner of the popular Canberra pub The Dock, and is a co-founder of the calorie counting service Alfred.

Ben also writes a blogs where he shares his struggles retiring from Rugby, and his journey to better understanding mental health struggles, and improving his own mental fitness.

“Suicide has been the biggest killer of people I know”. Says Ben. While he maintains that he is fortunate not to have personally experienced suicidal thoughts, Ben cannot overstate the value that exercise and connection have played in his own mental fitness, and getting through tough times.

 

Ben is passionate about making life beyond the uniform – any uniform – meaningful and engaging.  “..The transition is tough, and I didn’t decide to retire until the day before I announced it. Maybe I was in denial, but a few things happened that made my decision to retire a straight forward one. And while I’ll keep saying the word “retiring”, what I really mean to say is ‘transitioning to what’s next’ ”.

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Nick Bell

Nick Bell joined the NT Fire & Rescue Service in 1987 and was promoted to Watch Commander in 2004, a position he held until his resignation in March 2020. He has extensive experience in operational firefighting, having responded to and taken command of countless critical incidents including structure fires, motor vehicle accidents, gas leaks, truck accidents, cliff rescues, hazardous material spills and large bushfires.

Nick created SD Consulting Australia in 2004, to provide businesses with practical, effective, and efficient Work Health & Safety, risk management, crisis and emergency preparedness and safety leadership training solutions. This includes conducting and producing risk surveys, gap analysis, policy and procedure development, Risk Management Plans for major events and several other related services. SDCA is especially geared for start-ups, small and medium sized businesses that have little or no WH&S / risk protocols in place.

Nick regularly conducts training workshops for clients in the above areas and more, as well as giving talks and keynote speeches at conferences, operations meetings, board meetings and ‘Lunch & Learn’ workshops.

Nick’s interests include boxing, running and continuous self-improvement through reading and research in the above workshops he facilitates. He has travelled extensively throughout Western Europe and SE Asia. Nick is married and has two children and is based on the Gold Coast in Broadbeach.

Nick is deeply passionate about the work he does as a consultant in the WH&S and Risk Management field. He is also a proud supporter of the Australian Road Safety Foundation, White Ribbon / 1800 Respect and has worked with children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Now as an ambassador for Fortem, he is keen to help in any way he can.

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Will Collett

Will Collett is an ex serving member of the AFP and the ADF. He is now the Founder and Coach of ‘Making Men’, a private group aimed at supporting good men everywhere.

By joining Fortem, Will hopes that by telling his story, he can help others and become a conduit to support if ever they find themselves in a similar situation & get the right help & support. If he can help one person through his story and experiences, then it has been successful.

Will states that, “As First Responders & Defence, the code we live by involves courage, mateship, sacrifice, and endurance. When something breaks inside us and we can no longer perform that code – our jobs, we are often challenged to find other meaning & direction in our lives”.

After 17 years in the AFP & 8 years in the ADF, Will was diagnosed with chronic PTSD in 2017 and experienced firsthand the need to have the right support. By sharing his story, Will hopes to help and support others to get the right support.

Will did not believe for one minute that he would ever be diagnosed with PTSD. He had helped mates through it in the past but never felt he would be susceptible.

Then within a very short space of time in late 2017 Will was faced with the reality of PTSD and this started to affect every aspect of his life from work, family, health, and physical fitness. Through this, Will had the support of a few good mates who had been there before. Without the right support it is a very difficult process and easy for a person to fall off the radar into helplessness.

Brett Cubbins

Brett Cubbins

Brett Cubbins is a former Police Officer with a passion for helping first respondents to find meaningful work and the ability to see and understand their role and identity beyond the uniform.

Brett assisted in peacekeeping missions through the Solomon Islands, developed his police craft in general duties, before moving into criminal investigations and becoming a detective where he assisted and led several high profile and complex jobs.

Brett knows first hand the challenges that arise when transitioning out of the force and into the mainstream workforce. Brett eventually found Synergy, a management consulting firm in Canberra, which has taken him on a challenging but rewarding journey helping him realise how the valuable skills and experience that he attained in the force transfer to the consultancy world. Brett still has days where he misses the force, the brotherhood/sisterhood, comradery, mateship and feeling of belonging to a bigger family, but believes that his new company embodies these important parts and are values based which resonates with him. 

 

This new journey is one that takes time and patience. It can be challenging on your mental health and transitioning, despite the reasons, will always be difficult. Brett was recently diagnosed with PTSD and has learned the importance of a balanced lifestyle, finding meaning in your new role and the journey of transitioning into the workforce. Brett wants to help those transitioning out and finding their role to suit their skills and experience whilst maintaining their own mental health and balanced lifestyle.

Paul Field (For website)

Paul Field AM

Paul Field AM knows that first responders and their families need further support, both during their career and when transitioning out.

Paul is an author, singer, producer, director and former managing director of The Wiggles. In the Australia Day 2020 Honours List, Paul was appointed as Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the arts, particularly to children’s entertainment, and as a
supporter of charitable endeavours.

Paul has also worked for the Supreme Court, and was the only civilian member of the Investigations Team for the Wood Royal Commission into police corruption in NSW.

He is the author of two books – Confessions of a Crooked Cop (under the pseudonym Sean Padraic), and Gimme Shelter: Stories of Courage, Endurance and Survival from the Frontline and Back Home.

Paul has written at length about first responders, veterans and their families, particularly their struggles in returning to everyday life after service or dealing with the loss of loved ones.

Headshots - Board, Advisory Board & Ambassadors

Jess Grimwood

Jess Grimwood is a former Firefighter and Rescue Operator with Fire and Rescue NSW. In 2017, she was medically discharged with PTSD and has since committed to working with mental health professionals to understand the effects of trauma and learn about positive coping strategies. With many friends serving in the emergency services, Jess strives to be part of their support networks by offering the tools and resources she has found helpful in her own journey. She is looking forward to spreading the word about Fortem’s support of first responders. 

Jess is also a former competitive surfer, having represented Australia twice in the sport.  

 

Jess says, “My time spent as a first responder has given me the greatest challenges as well as the greatest lessons.” 

Headshots - Board, Advisory Board & Ambassadors

Peter Henry

Peter has given nearly 20 years of his life to serving communities in the UK and Australia. His policing career started in 2002 working for the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorist Unit Special Branch as a Civilian member of staff. A few years later as a Police Officer, Peter quickly found his passion within Investigations, Public Order and Emergency Management, whilst working in various specialist investigation units across West London. Peter’s passion saw him trained as a Public Order Medic and Public Order Commander, for which he received a Commendation for Bravery in 2011 for his work during the London Riots. 

In 2014, Peter joined the WA Police Force working in various regional and metropolitan locations. Peter received the Police Commissioner’s Cross for Bravery in recognition of his Conspicuous Courage – on 10 January 2017, Peter placed himself at risk of significant personal injury or death when he pursued and captured an offender who had fled the scene of a homicide.

Peter was given the opportunity to work at Kintore Police Station in 2019; Australia’s most remote Police Station on the NT/WA Border. An experience never to be forgotten, living and working with Australia’s most remote indigenous community, learning new skills, and being afforded the opportunity to begin to understand. 

Prior to leaving the WA Police Force in July 2021, Peter’s position was within the Digital Policing Division, managing various projects to assist officers on the frontline. This included starting a mobile application to improve fairness and equality to Aboriginal peoples during their interactions with police officers. The app, named ‘Yarning,’ provides spoken Aboriginal language interpretation of important information relating to rights in custody, COVID and youth messaging. This was a world first and was inspired by Peter’s time working in Kintore.

Peter is now the Asia Pacific Regional Manager for Altia, a Fortem Australia Pledge Partner, and global lead in intelligence and investigation solutions.

Peter’s experiences in both the UK and Australia as a first responder, combined with his recent transitioning from the government to the private sector, has allowed him to relay his story to many first responders across Australia. Peter helps by putting them in direct contact with Fortem Australia’s Transition and Employment Program. Peter understands first hand the stresses of not only being a first responder, but also the fear of leaving the government sector.  

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Darren Henstock

Darren is a former police officer, serving for over 25 years in both the UK and Australia. After a few false starts, he took the plunge and left policing in late 2021 to take on a role as an Associate Director with KPMG, where he is currently their National Law Enforcement Lead.

Darren has wide ranging experience through his years of policing from Public Order Policing, CBRN and Specialist Units, through to investigation and Community Policing. Darren holds a Masters’ Degree in Applied Criminology and Police Management from Cambridge University, and remains on the Criminology Faculty.

 

This has allowed him to provide advice and consultation on evidence based policing, offender diversion, technology implementation and change to justice agencies around the world. His research on body worn video is published in several academic journals.

Darren is passionate about the role Fortem can play in supporting First Responders and Veterans. He hails from a military family, and has a number of relations who are First Responders – so is acutely aware of the impact service can have.

In his own career, Darren has seen the cost of the escalation of mental health issues losing colleagues and friends to suicide – it was far later in his career he realised he harboured his own demons too. He appreciates the support Fortem can give, recognising that just one aspect of support is not enough – family, self, and career are intertwined and all are important. A key area Darren seeks to support through Fortem is the transition and support for First Responders into new careers, using his own experience and learning to guide others. 

 

Piper Johnson

Piper Johnson

Piper Johnson is the daughter of a current Fire and Rescue NSW Firefighter, and granddaughter of a former Firefighter from the 1960s and 1970s. Piper is currently a Year 6 student and Vice Captain of her school. 

Having been born into an emergency service family, Piper knows the physical, emotional and mental strength it takes for loved ones to serve our community and what is required from their families to support them to be heroes. Families are the unsung heroes.

Piper is the creator of a concept known as ESKies, standing for Emergency Services Kiddies. She introduced this concept during a school project that involved addressing social justice issues that affected the community and she is ecstatic to be a Family Ambassador with Fortem Australia.

By joining Fortem, Piper hopes to raise awareness and encourage a support network for all children of Emergency Service Kiddies. ESKies should allow kids to share how they feel with each other when their parent/s goes to work or if they are little late home or if they come home tired or injured. She is also hoping it opens conversations within the family unit and provides them comfort knowing there are other unique and extraordinary families like theirs.

Her goals are to achieve a regular interaction through Fortem and their associated connections, with an open forum or social platform where ESKies get to have a voice about their own experiences and hope the ESKies concept and the importance of the children of emergency service workers resonates with all.

 

Fortem Australia Ambassador - Tara Lal

Tara Lal AFSM

Tara Lal dedicates her time to changing the public narrative around suicide and mental illness, through the integration of research and storytelling. Tara is a senior firefighter with Fire and Rescue NSW who joined the service in 2005.

Her passion for supporting the mental health of firefighters evolved partly from her own experiences of growing up in a family deeply impacted by suicide and mental ill health, and partly from witnessing the devastating impact of mental illness and suicide on her colleagues at Fire and Rescue.

Tara is a long-time member of the peer support team and has managed the psychological wellbeing program at Fire and Rescue. She is also the internationally published author of Standing on My Brother’s Shoulders: making peace with grief and suicide, a PhD candidate at the University of New England (focusing on understanding the impact of suicide on firefighters), and a finalist in the Rotary Inspirational Woman of the Year awards.

Tara recently cycled unsupported across Australia, raising money and awareness for mental health and suicide prevention.

Tara says, “It’s my pleasure and privilege to be an ambassador for Fortem, most especially because I believe wholeheartedly in their approach, which aligns exactly with what I see, hear and know from the research is needed and called for in the space of first responder health and wellbeing. A shift away from the bio-medical model towards a social, relational and cultural model.”

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Simone Lord

Simone Lord is a business consultant and lifestyle mentor. Simone manages a corporate career as well as her own business in health and fitness – to share her passion of living a healthy lifestyle regardless of your home dynamics. Simone’s husband Gavin is an active member of the NSW Police Force, and has been serving the community for over 12 years. Together they have three young children and a very busy schedule.

Simone has developed strategies and routines to ensure that their family stays happy and healthy amongst the competing priorities of shift work and home life. Simone is committed to helping shift working families find the balance between working outside of the 9-5 and maintaining your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Alongside her professional qualifications in accounting and leadership, Simone is a personal trainer and boxing coach – living her passion for and commitment to physical movement for emotional wellbeing.

“We have three boys aged four, six, and eight. It was important to my husband and I to share with our children why dad was home some days and not the next – explaining the role of a frontline worker in an appropriate way for their age helped them comprehend the instability within our home. By opening these conversations, our children became more resilient to what is happening in this ever-changing environment”

 

By joining Fortem, Simone pledges to open the conversation around family dynamics and how physical health via exercise and good nutrition is key to assisting emotional wellbeing and a positive mindset. 

 

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Damian Martin

Damian Martin believes that mental fitness is the key to performing at a high level in any role.

Damian is a former professional basketball player and one of the NBL’s most decorated players – he captained the Australian U19 team to a gold medal at the 2003 World Championships, before going on to play for Australia at the 2016 Olympics and the 2018 Commonwealth Games, where Australia won the gold medal.

The six-time NBL champion, six-time NBL best defensive player and 2016 NBL Grand Final MVP has dedicated significant time to building mental fitness throughout his thirteen-year NBL career, in order to perform at his best.

Alongside his passion for basketball, Damian has assisted numerous teams and organisations with building their mental fitness.

Damian has supported many charities and causes throughout his career, including men’s mental health.

Paul Milne

Paul Milne

Paul Milne is a former Sergeant and Instructor, highly recognized with the Northern Territory Police. In 2017, he was medically discharged with PTSD and major depression. However, Paul is determined to make the most of his situation. He has now chosen this path to shatter stigma and stereotypes associated with mental illness, while being a strong, empathic leader providing real hope to those who need it the most.

 

A proud father of four children, Paul is passionate about maintaining physical and mental fitness. A multiple Finke Desert Race Competitor, he has proven that any obstacle can be overcome with determination. Paul finds sharing his story very humbling and rewarding. The greatest thing is to see is change.

Paul is also committed to working with Government agencies to ensure access to mental health support resources for Police and first responders. He also works closely with mental health professionals to understand the effects of trauma, the need for positive cultural change, and to share effective coping strategies. Paul actively advocates for mental health reforms, suicide prevention, and wellbeing Australia wide.

It’s okay not to be okay, and reaching out for help is a strength. Paul is grateful for a brilliant support network, and hopes that his mental health journey will encourage others to seek help. He looks forward to spreading the word about Fortem Australia support of first responders.

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Andy Rhodes QPM

Andy Rhodes dedicates his working life to the wellbeing of first responders, and believes that organisations like Fortem are vital for the mental health of those who serve our communities.

Andy Rhodes is the former Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary one of 43 forces in England and Wales with a workforce of 6000. For 10 years he was the NPCC lead for well being, staff engagement and organisational development. His policing background has been mainly in the uniform & specialist operations disciplines including Counter Terrorism Firearms Command. He was awarded the QPM in 2016 and has an MBA and a Post Graduate Certificate in coaching. Until retirement in 2021 he was chair of CPOSA the Chief Police Officers Staff Association.

Andy is currently preparing his doctoral research study which will focus on well being.

Andy has worked with experts from across policing and academia, and is the service lead for the National Well Being Service (NPWS) Oscar Kilo www.oscarkilo.org.uk. The NPWS is funded by Government and Public Health England and services a blue light community of over 200,000 law enforcement and fire professionals. The OK programme comprises a range of services from line manager & executive leadership training to psychological support.

The NPWS team co-ordinate a fleet of 10 outreach vehicles kitted out with health screening equipment and represents a vital front end to the service which is highly visible and able to extend its reach to a dynamic frontline. Over 10,000 members of staff have accessed early intervention physical, psychological and financial check-ups in the last 12 months. In crisis events, the fleet is used to forward deploy for use in trauma debriefs.

Andy is now the Service Director for the National Well Being Service and also an executive coach, consultant and in his spare time volunteers in the charity Strong Young Minds which he set up 5 years ago with his wife Helen who is COO. The charity provides resilience support for young people in educational settings.

Outside of work Andy has 3 children, 3 grandchildren and is married to Helen a psychotherapist who specialises in drug & alcohol recovery. Having discovered QiGong they are studying for accreditation so that they can help others access the incredible benefits of this ancient Chinese practice.

In between all this Andy enjoys competitive triathlon having completed several long distance events usually finishing in the dark.

Laura Stevens

Laura Stevens

Laura is a former paramedic who has worked for Ambulance Victoria and the London Ambulance Service. She now works as a consultant in KPMG’s Health, Ageing and Human Services practice, where she leverages her paramedic skills and experience to help clients solve complex challenges.

Laura is incredibly passionate about supporting first responders who are looking to transition from working in the emergency services to other careers. She believes first responders have a diverse range of skills and attributes that bring great value outside of just the emergency services sector. She also appreciates the challenges first responders face in transitioning out of the emergency services and is looking forward to supporting people to pursue new career pathways.   

Andy Traver

Andrew Traver

Andrew Traver believes that mental health and wellbeing needs to be a major priority for first responders and their families. He speaks publicly about his own mental health experiences – both as an individual and as the leader of a first responder agency – in order to help normalise these conversations.

Andrew is the former Director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). NCIS investigates and defeats criminal, foreign intelligence, cyber and terrorist threats to the United States Navy and Marine Corps wherever they operate: ashore, afloat and in cyberspace. Andrew’s global role had him working with many nations in addition to the US, including Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Colombia, England, Italy, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Panama, Singapore and Germany.

Importantly, he implemented a peer-support program to help agents deal with trauma and mental health issues.

Andrew now works in MSU’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology.

Ben Watson

Ben Watson

Ben Watson has served as a volunteer firefighter for nearly 25 years, and currently volunteers as a Group Captain with The Hills district in Sydney. He is a husband and father, serves the country as an Army Officer and the community as a volunteer firefighter, as well as co-founder in a company ‘Bushfire Risk Assessments’.

He believes there are two elements to the health of our first responders, mental and physical – both work in unison and need to be in balance. He also recognises the importance of supporting family of first responders, knowing that those at home are often under pressure too.

As a young man growing up on the urban rural fringe, Ben lived through two devastating bushfires, one that took the lives of his neighbours and one that destroyed his family home. Last fire season he led hundreds of firefighters on the most hazardous firegrounds in NSW. 

Ben has been an Army Officer for 20 years and he is most proud of his service leading Australian soldiers in combat. With 5 operational tours and multiple leadership appointments it is clear that he understands what it takes to work in high stress and high tempo environments.

“…whether on the battlefield or the fireground, I attribute my resilience to preparation, training, my family and mentors.”

“It is important to remember that not just the person in harm’s way needs to be resilient, those at home are often under more pressure and stress. I regularly check in with my wife and kids.” Last fire season after a particularly difficult couple of hours and close calls at the Gospers Mountain Fire, Ben rang home, he says “it was as much for me as it was for them. There might be one person in harm’s way but there are an unknown number of family and friends supporting them.”

When asked to support Fortem, Ben said “…supporting the great work at Fortem is a no brainer. Education, awareness and connectedness for our frontline emergency service personnel is how Australia will remain strong and resilient, Fortem is the link we have been missing. First Responders have similar experiences and sometimes we don’t know that the burden we carry is carried by many. It is as easy as having a conversation, and the events and services Fortem provide are going to make Australia’s emergency service personnel stronger and therefore more capable!”

Ben is co-founder of the company, Bushfire Risk Assessments. “Our vision is to create awareness and understanding of the risks associated with living in the bush.”

“I am tired of hearing… I didn’t think it could happen here. Many Australians move to areas or communities with increased likelihood of a natural disaster, and they simply don’t know it. I am hoping to create a company that makes it easy and quick for people to understand the risk before buying a house, much the same way as a pest or building inspection. Individuals moving to an area with insight and understanding, helps create ownership of risk and hence build more resilient communities. So many homes in bushfire prone land are not built to current standards, and it is important that people are aware of the hidden expenses involved to make their home safer. Lessening the burden of bushfires and the risk to the community is an important step in helping our first responders protect us”.

Ben’s proud to live a life of community service and is committed to supporting Fortem make the emergency service team stronger.

Cameron Watts

Cameron Watts

Cameron is a former Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer, who held leadership roles spanning criminal investigations, national security operations, and as a liaison to the Minister for Law Enforcement.

Cameron is a vocal advocate for the prevention and treatment of post-traumatic stress among first responders. He regularly mentors current and former first responders, while assisting them to build a positive mindset, healthy lifestyle and seek support where necessary.

Cameron played a leading role in the AFP’s fight against foreign bribery and corruption for the last four years of his career. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Bribery Prevention Network, a world-first public-private partnership that assists Australian businesses to detect, prevent and address bribery.

During his career, Cameron has presented at major global forums, including the OECD and APEC, regarding Australia’s efforts in addressing and preventing foreign bribery and corruption.

Cameron is passionate about encouraging businesses to more actively participate in solutions to address entrenched bribery and corruption around the world. He founded his business, Capital Integrity, with this goal in mind.

As the Founder and Managing Director of Capital Integrity, Cameron helps clients to entrench social and governance best practice at the centre of their operations, ensuring the greatest possible protection from risks related to bribery and corruption.

Headshots - Board, Advisory Board & Ambassadors

Sharn Watts

Sharn Watts is a yoga teacher and wife of Fortem Ambassador and former AFP member Cameron Watts. Sharn is passionate about supporting family members and friends of those living with PTSD.

In 2018 while on maternity leave, Sharn transitioned from a position in the Australian Government to train as a Yoga teacher and run her own business, Yoga Mums Fitness. Sharn started this business when her kids were still babies to follow her passion of all thing’s yoga, movement, meditation and self-care for Mums.

Throughout the journey of supporting Cameron while they were navigating PTSD, Sharn found through direct experience that there was little to no support for the families and partners of those suffering PTSD, and it became a cause incredibly close to her heart.

Sharn’s passion has now led her to be an ambassador for Fortem Australia and to undertake Yoga for Trauma training as she believes in balance and self-care, not only for the person suffering from PTSD, but for family members and their support network as well.