11 September 2019

Triple J's Nas Campanella back in Bega for Festival of Open Minds

| Lisa Herbert
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Nas uses JAWS software and special controls at her Triple J studio desk. Photo: abc.net.au

Nas uses JAWS software and special controls at her Triple J studio desk. Photo: abc.net.au

Nastasia (Nas) Campanella is a journalist and radio newsreader with the ABC’s Triple J youth radio network. She is coming back to Bega on September 14 for the Festival of Open Minds.

Nas lost her sight when she was just six months old when a rare abnormality caused the retinas to tear away from her eyes, leaving her able to see little more than shadows and some light. Nas also has a sensitivity condition called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, unrelated to her vision impairment, which means she can’t read Braille due to a lack of sensitivity in her fingertips.

A lover of music, radio and writing, she decided on a career in journalism at a young age. Nas’s determination overran any sense of disability, using audiobooks and textbooks translated to electronic text during her study.

Winning an ABC cadetship in 2011, Nas spent 2012 news-gathering and reading in Bega at ABC South East, where she met her now husband, ABC newsman Thomas Oriti.

“Nas came barrelling up to me at a meeting in Sydney saying she was determined to come to Bega. Such was her confidence and determination, I had no idea that Nas was blind,” says John Leach, Journalist in Charge of ABC South East at that time.

“Bega was a very supportive environment, we really look after our cadets. It’s a time that can make or break you as a journalist.”

Nas learned her way around very quickly, “and one day she just said – I’m ready, and she was,” John says.

In 2013 Nas joined the team at Triple J where she produces, writes, sources, and reads the news several times a day.

“The fact that I have a vision impairment is nothing to me – but it’s something that other people have found a bit confronting so it’s nice to be able to get people to come around to the idea,” she says.

“I became a journalist because it’s what I love to do, but it’s also nice to know I can help break that mould and hopefully get other people with disabilities employed as well.”

During a three-minute news bulletin, Nas has four streams of audio simultaneously feeding through her headphones via software known as the JAWS speech program.

This allows Nas to read the screen with a text to speech output giving her:

  • Her own voice reading out the news;
  • A clock telling her exactly when to start and finish- as news segments are required to be exactly 3 minutes;
  • And audio snippets that have been packaged before going on air to be included in a story.

Nas’s studio is also equipped with strategically placed Velcro patches-allowing her to operate her own panel.

Often described as an inspirational person, Nas has says, “I guess I often forget that people find it impressive that someone’s reading the news who can’t see. You just get up and do what you do, so it’s nice to hear people get something out of it.”

“I’ve been blind since I was six months old, but if the last 30 years has taught me anything it’s how little people know about living with a disability.”

Nas is also well known as a foodie, and while in the Bega Valley she and Thomas became a great fan of Tathra’s oysters, often showing up at colleagues homes with dozens of the famous molluscs.

Gary Rodely of Tathra Oysters remembers “Nas had a love of oysters and we had a love of her, her big beaming smile in the shop, quite regularly.”

For Nas and Thomas’s wedding in Sydney they had Gary and Jo Rodely courier hundreds of oysters up to them for a special wedding oyster table.

“They wanted a piece of the South Coast for the day, sensory things. Food and flavours are very important to Nas,” says Gary, “she and Thomas wanted their guests to experience these special things they loved.”

Nas Campanella recording an interview in Fiji for her first TV news story. Photo: ABC News: Aaron Kearney

John Leach remembers giving the speech to farewell Nas from Bega saying, “Nas is blind, but she actually sees a lot more than the average person.”

He says he recalls Nas saying, “there is no room to stand back. If you want to do something, you go out and you get it.”

Nas sees many things and will leave a mark on all those who meet her at the Festival of Open Minds.

The theme for Open Minds in 2019 is ‘People With Oomph’ inspired by Bega Valley song man Damon Davis and his song of the same name.

“People with oomph – they’re not lyin down. People with oomph – spread the good life. People with oomph – keep their own style. People with oomph – walk mile after mile,” Damon sings.

Aside from Nas Campanella, the 2019 Festival of Open Minds line up so far includes:

  • Tim Costello, Chief Advocate, World Vision;
  • Pastor Christie Buckingham, spiritual counselor to executed Bali 9 drug smuggler Myuran Sukumaran;
  • Aly Khalifa, entrepreneur focused on harvesting plastic waste from our oceans;
  • Emma Booth, para-equestrian competitor, represented Australia at the 2016 Rio Paralympics;
  • Alasdair Tremblay-Birchall, comedian, joke writer, grew up in Tathra;
  • Sassi Nuyum, aka Meaghan Holt, rising Aboriginal writer, performer;
  • Corrine Gibbons, songstress and choir director;
  • Jonathan Kenna, Australia’s Ambassador to Sweden;
  • Captain Phil Holliday, Sydney, Port Kembla and Eden Harbour Master;
  • Damon Davis, long singer-songwriter and the original man of oopmh;
  • A local panel of leaders including Erica Dibden – Tilba Milk, Louise Brand – road safety campaigner, Kate Toyer – Moruya vet and transgender advocate, Warren Foster Jr – Aboriginal artist and leader, Darren Jones – Band Together, and Hannah Doole – climate change activist.

The night before this day of discussion, we launch the festival with a FREE community celebration – Parklight in the heart of Bega. Littleton Gardens will light up with magical occurrences and happenings, a celebration of our community with a focus on the contribution and talent of youth and Indigenous culture.

Adult tickets for Saturday’s program are on sale now, including lunch option, people 12 to 19 years get in FREE, but you do need to reserve your place. Students there on the day will also be in the running to win $500 to put towards a science education experience of their choice thanks to The Sapphire Coast Regional Science Hub and Inspiring Australia.

Rush to Eventbrite now to claim your place at the Festival of Open Minds.

Thank you to our Festival partners –


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