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Growing Bold sparks Disability Affairs role for much-loved voice

For Nastasia Campanella, Growing Bold through self-belief has been
one driving aspect which has delivered a successful and fulfilling media

Blind since she was six months old and living with genetic
disease, Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Nas (as she likes to be called), has an almost
total lack of sensitivity in her fingertips and hands, meaning she can’t read
braille, but it’s never held her back.

Landing a cadetship with the ABC in 2011, the
Sydneysider has gone on to become a much-loved news reader with cult radio
station, Triple J, for the last seven years.


Overcoming any perceived obstacles as one of the
ABC’s most recognisable voices, Nas refuses to be judged or defined by
disability. Transitioning into a role as Disability Affairs reporter for ABC, Nas
hopes to drive “change”, and equal employment opportunities.

“Nothing is off limits, and I’ve been completely
overwhelmed by people wanting to put forward story ideas or topics to explore,”
Nas said of the new role.

“I felt this role really brought together my years
of advocacy and years as a journalist, to make a change within the media to
prove lived experience in writing about the disabled community.

“A lot of people in the disabled community are
wanting change, and the best way to bring about change is to talk about things
people are doing and show the wider public, we’re working, studying, living
life and doing the things everyone else is.”

Employment, a topic close to Nas’ heart is a key
driver for her vision, and something which should be inclusive of disability,
but not defined by it. 

Nas’ views and experiences have been grafted and
fine-tuned over time, where a girl growing up in western Sydney never let
disability become a barrier, regardless of stereotyping or social perceptions.

Speaking to fellow journalist, Pete Timbs and
Tristram Peters on her Grow Bold With Disability podcast episode, Nas described
starting out at a special school, before transitioning into mainstream

“Some of the supports I did have in those early
years were an itinerant support teacher who’d come to class with me,” Nas said
in her podcast.

“We figured out I couldn’t read Braille; we used
audio and e-text and things like that, making sure that anything that was
basically given to my other peers was also taught to me.”

Finding innovative ways to do the things other kids
her age were doing, Nas’ creativity continued to grow, as her calling for
becoming a journalist emerged.

“I’d always been really (interested) in media,
because it’s the way I sort of learned about the world around me,” Nas said.

“I’d be listening to radio from the moment I woke
up to the time I went to sleep at night, I loved the way people sounded.

“I loved the music, and when I got to my teen
years, I started doing community radio, and it was there that I really
discovered that power you could have as someone behind a microphone with
bringing people together, having them take part in really stimulating
conversation, and teaching them about the world around them.”


While Nas’ drive and clear talent was evident, her
enthusiasm or dream wasn’t shared by everyone as her journey developed, with
apparently more “appropriate jobs”, suggested for her.

“I grew up with people telling me that a secretary,
or receptionist, or psychologist would be appropriate jobs… not knocking those
jobs, but it’s just not what I wanted to do,” Nas said.

“I loved writing from an early age, (but) at university,
when I was looking for work, people would say, ‘how could you tell a story if
you don’t see what’s happening?’, those kinds of things.”

Using the lack of belief in her as motivation, it
was “this is what I want, and I don’t care what people think”, which helped
drive Nas’ ambitions.

Utilising Jaws screen reading software, a white
cane, a phone for recording, apps and voiceover technology, Nas’ disability
plays no role in her ability as a journalist.

While praising the ABC, Nas believes the reality
and experiences for those with disability externally, is not always as

Barriers remain, and Nas herself said while it was
her choice not to disclose disabilities in job applications, the decision is a
personal one, and regardless, shouldn’t impact employment opportunities.

“We’ve got several people (at ABC) with lived
experience, and my organisation shows we’re an (inclusive) organisation, so,
for people telling me journalism wasn’t for me, I’ve proved them wrong as
several people have,” Nas said.

“But while disclosing disability wasn’t relevant
for me, it’s an incredibly personal decision to disclose that, and whether we
like it or not, people do discriminate and there can be judgements.

“I think there’s a concerted effort (for workplaces
to become more inclusive), but there’s a large portion of workplaces still
paying lip service.

“The biggest barrier for disability employment is
attitude, and the concerns today are really the ones that have been concerning
people in the disability community for a long time. Technology is available and
can be provided, so it’s about creating a space where everybody is welcome.”

Sinking her teeth into her new role, Nas hopes to
grow the conversation and embrace everything disability. Sparked through
putting together editorial guidance notes for best practice standards for
language and the portrayal of people with disability ahead of last year’s
Disability Royal Commission, the role has become a vehicle for creating a
“voice” for those with disability, and a platform for evolution and change.

“It’s been wonderful to connect with so many
amazing people in the disability community and to hear the kinds of issues they
want on the agenda,” Nas said.

“It’s to give them a platform, to put their voice
out there, and to talk about the issues they want to talk about in a way they
want to talk about them.”

The epitome of Growing Bold, Nas encouraged
everyone to back themselves and break through any perceived barriers, rather
than be held back by them. 

“Growing Bold to me means sometimes stepping out of
your comfort zone, trying something new, trusting your gut, and really
believing in yourself,” Nas said.

“Because if you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody else will.”

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