Brunette, blind woman sitting in an office

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

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.

NAS’ NEXT BOLD STEP SEES HER PROVIDING A VOICE AND PLATFORM FOR DISABILITY

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 education.

“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.”

NAS’ ACCOMPLISHMENTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

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 positive.

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.”

TO HEAR OTHER STORIES OF GROWING BOLD, VISIT OUR GROW BOLD WITH DISABILITY PODCAST PAGE HERE.

 

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