Life with my Bro

To my glorious Wandering Journo tribe,

This newsletter is a bit different to my previous musings. What an incredible year this has been, and continues to be. So many people facing hardships they could not have imagined only a few short months ago.

I wanted to start by giving you some news. I’ve started working two days a week as an advocate for the Disability Royal Commission through the incredible advocacy organisation Speaking Up For You.

This is about the best video I’ve found to explain what the Disability Royal Commission is all about.

If you have a disability or know someone who does, and would like some help making a submission to the DRC about your experience of violence, neglect, abuse or exploitation, please just hit reply to this email and you’ll get me and I can help. The Commission is taking submissions in any way you see fit—audio, video, written, even artworks have been submitted and are being considered by the seven commissioners while preparing their report. The Commission is still taking submissions despite Covid-19, and will continue for at least a couple of years. So make your voice heard.

Those of you who know me well know what a great fit this role is—that for most of my journo life my main motivation has been to give voice to those who don’t have a voice in the media—so they have their voice heard. I feel this role is a natural extension of my raison d’être.

It’s a wonderful opportunity to combine my skills as a journo, with my lived experience of growing up with my brother Ashley who has an intellectual disability.

And it also gives me three days a week to continue my Wandering Journo journey, and make podcasts for you my friends and supporters in Streets of Your Town and the other podcast series I produce such as Remarkable Tales, and The Gender Card.

I’ve been amazed to find how useful my Journo storytelling skills are in this DRC advocacy role. That sometimes people are just overwhelmed with the detail of what has happened to them (understandably) and how an experienced storyteller can help them release that. To me this is about as important oral history as you can get, and helps the Commission put together a comprehensive picture of the systemic issues that people with a disability still face in this country.

Right now I am sitting in hospital waiting for my brother Ashley to come out of a hip replacement operation. I’m here as his sister and advocate, as his intellectual disability makes it hard for him to communicate and understand what’s happening around him particularly in confusing places like hospitals.

So I just wanted to apologise that I haven’t got out a podcast for you this week, but to let you know that’s the reason why. In times like these, we realise that family considerations come first for all of us.

That said it’s quite a relief being able to write to my supporters, my tribe, my extended family, to help me pass the time while waiting for news on his operation’s success.

To thank you and the wonderful people who have renewed their paying subscription to this newsletter to keep my Wandering Journo dream alive, I wanted to send you this exclusive personal story column that I wrote when it woke me from my sleep only a few days ago.

I typed it out on the iPad next to my bed at 2am, as if possessed by the column writing angels. It’s my personal reflections on life with my brother Ashley. He’s two years older than me, so all I’ve known is a world with Ashley in it. It’s just him and me, no other siblings. So it’s a remarkable bond we share.

Thanks for your support and patience. I hope to get another cracking podcast to you all very soon.

Nance


Life with my bro

We’ve been having the same conversation for years now.

It usually starts with my brother Ashley talking about his day. How his budgie Peter is. He’s had a few budgies now in his 51 years. They’ve all been called Peter. So that makes life easier for him and for everyone really.

But today was different.

I’ve been coming over to help look after his beloved chooks since coronavirus hit.

He doesn’t have names for them but Ashley loves his four grand dame chooks. They live in a great chookie mansion in his backyard and I come and make sure he’s ok under the guise of giving them my kitchen scraps. I leave it up to Ashley if he wants to take part and say hello. Today he did.

Ashley was outside at his front gate chatting with one of the neighbourhood kids who stopped to chat while perched on his bmx bike. Being winter in Brisbane it was nearly dark even though it was only 5pm. But the sky was crimson red, clouds spreading over the night sky like long fuzzy red fingers, with a bat flying over head for extra dramatic effect.

It’s so peaceful in his little suburban street. This could be a street in a little country town, rather than a major Aussie capital city. Kid on the bike, Ash at the gate, and me propping up the front fence too for a chat.

I talked to Ash about how beautiful this idyllic suburban street was, with the half moon in the sky hanging over us like a lantern.

“Isn’t it beautiful Ash?”

“It’s paradise my Nancy—it’s paradise”.

There’s not many people in this world who I let call me Nancy. It’s not my name after all, but I find a lot of older people put the “y” on the end in their efforts to be polite—to get my name right in their mind. Even though it’s wrong.

But for my brother, it’s just always been what he calls me. Perhaps harking back to when we were growing up and I went through a stage at primary school where I didn’t like Nance, in my pre-teen mind I wanted my name to sound softer.

Sometimes I realise that no one in this life will understand me more than my brother. Despite his intellectual disability which makes his words increasingly garbled as he ages. But that doesn’t matter. Our bond is unspoken, unsaid, and goes beyond mere words.

We’ve walked this earth together for 50 years. In some ways he’s all I’ve ever known. My big brother, who I look out for.

It’s important to him though that I’m not his carer. Not in his mind anyway. I’ve never given him his medication. I don’t do his chores. It’s important for him that I’m just his sister. Not one of his magnificent army of angels—or as some people call them—support workers.

And I realised at that moment standing with Ashley at his front fence, that paradise he described is not just the beauty of his surrounds right now. Idyllic as this slice of Brisbane suburbia is.

It’s also about the paradise within. That he’s got a home and independence and his own life, on his terms. My Mum and Dad and I fought so hard for him to have it, and he’s one of the lucky ones.

It was a long struggle to get him into this humble Housing Commission home, in what he always describes as his “brand new red house”. The post war cottage on a big block in the suburbs that in his mind is his castle.

It almost makes all the years he ran away from home as a teenager worthwhile, trying to figure out his destiny, like many other Aussie kids in their teens and 20s do. But for Ash, it involved getting on a train and going to the end of the line, then hoping someone would find him and come and get him.

But not any more. Not in paradise. He hasn’t run away once since he came to live here on his own. His little housing commission post war cottage, that for him could be Buckingham Palace.

Little does Ashley know his struggle to be heard was one of my main motivations to become a journo. To give voice to the voiceless. He made me realise that this world is not just. But that I could fight with my pen and notebook to make it moreso.

Seeing him look out at the sunset tonight makes all the lobbying and advocating for him worthwhile. The nurses in hospital, surprised that I would come so regularly to see how he was when he was sick. The thoughtless people who asked how he got his brain injury, as if checking if he was a good or a bad brain-injured person. Whether it was his fault. As if that would affect his treatment.

I’ve spent my life since in many ways trying to figure out how Ashley could best fit in to society.

There’s a photo of Ashley and I when I was three years old with my arm very protectively over my big brother’s shoulder as if protecting him from the world around us.

Not the usual response of a kid as small as I was then.

But I remember always having this innate understanding that Ashley was my brother, yes. But also my responsibility. That I had to do what I could to make his life and therefore Mum and Dad’s life easier, so the family stayed together through all this.

When I visited him in hospital as he recovered from a recent hip operation, every time I saw him, he would look me in the eye, which is rare. And he would say to me:

“My Nancy. Do not worry about me. I will be fine.”

He wanted me to know that I’m not his carer. I’m not his Mum or Dad. I’m his sister and his friend. We walk through life together Ashley and I. I accompany him, that is all.

And here we are now, at the front yard of paradise.

It’s the best conversation we’ve ever had. Simple and profound.

“I think I say yes my Nancy. I say yes”.

Yes you do, Ashley. Yes to all of this. All this beauty in this ordinariness. You living here independently. You Ashley, the brother I am so proud of, who because you exist you employ four caring angels through the NDIS who love you and look after you like a brother too. You contribute more to society as what I like to call “Small Business Ashley” than many other people who question why you are here. And make sure you’re happy as life can make you.

Life is good Ashley. Thanks for reminding me. Life is indeed good.


Postscript

Ashley came out of the hip replacement operation well and is now recovering. Big thanks to ABBA’s support for this as his favourite “More ABBA Gold” album had a big part to play in his recovery—thank god for phones that play music bedside, hey. Hopefully we will be up dancing and singing karaoke again soon.


Brian Courtice on recognising an ugly past

  
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Welcome to series 3 of Streets of Your Town podcast!

In this series I will continue my wanderings around the country, well as far as I can in this new COVID world. Which might be rural Queensland for now! Mildred the cantankerous kombi and I have just returned from our last adventure researching and recording, and I have brought back this exclusive podcast from Bundaberg for your listening pleasure (to listen just click on the link above!), continuing the debate on blackbirding in this country.

As the Black Lives Matter movement gathers pace around the world, prompting Australians to reflect on race and discrimination in this country, debate is growing about Australia’s legacy of blackbirding.

More than 60,000 Pacific Islanders, then known as kanakas, were forced, coerced or deceived into leaving their native lands and shipped to Australia between 1863 to 1904. They worked in often cruel conditions, and were paid a pittance as indentured labourers on farms.

Their graves, many unmarked, are still being discovered. Many thousands of their descendants still live in Australia, and are proudly known as Australian South Sea Islanders.

So when Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently declared “there was no slavery in Australia”, it brought up much grief from the South Sea Islander community.

Brian Courtice is the former federal member for Hinkler, who lives on the farm “Sunnyside” just outside of Bundaberg in Queensland.

Above: Brian’s grandchildren check out a century-old corn thresher he just acquired. It even still works! He uses it to get the corn off the cob to feed his cattle.

This podcast interview happened on Brian’s front porch, with his grandchildren running around him, continuing the generations of his family who have lived on the farm since the 1920s.

But he’s had to come to terms with the farm’s blackbirding past before his family took it over, when it was under the control of landowner Edward Turner in the late 1800s.

Turner was convicted of hitting and starving the South Sea Islander labourers who worked on the farm, and even hanged one South Sea Islander on a tree on the property.

Brian thinks there are 50 Pacific Islanders buried on the property in unmarked graves, but has only found the graves of 29 of those people. That graveyard is now heritage listed.

In this interview Brian renews his calls to the federal government and the Australian public, to not only recognise this chapter of Australian history, but also support ways to heal the ongoing pain of the generations who followed.

“The history of South Sea Islanders has been buried for so long in Queensland and in Australia and even the PM didn’t understand that we had slavery here in Queensland,” Brian says.

“We owe a great debt to the South Sea Islanders for the early work they did establishing the sugar industry.”

Brian showed me photos of a recent tour of local schoolchildren who came to his property. They came to see the graves of South Sea Islanders who died on the farm, and learn about local history.

He says learning about blackbirding should be a compulsory part of the national school curriculum.

“62,000 were brought here against their wishes and 16,000 died here. That’s slavery,” he says.

“Those 16,000 are buried all over Queensland in unmarked graves like the early plantation owners buried their livestock, which I think is terrible.

“Queensland was the state where slavery existed.

“You need to know the past if you’re going to develop the future.

“The fact that so many people in Australia do not know that Queensland was developed on the back of slavery is a sad indictment on both the curriculum of the education system and people who tried to protect cover up for people who were the top end of town who no longer exist. Some of these people are revered and they made their wealth out of the exploitation of other people.”

He says this isn’t a partisan issue, and should cross over party lines.

“Both major parties have neglected this over the past 30 or 40 years,” he says.

“We’ve made great inroads in Europe and France and Belgium in trying to find the remains of Aussies that died there in World War I as we should do. This is the same thing. These people died a long way from home, were brought here against their will, were exploited and it’s a story that needs to continually be told.

“It should actually be a compulsory part of our school curriculum.

“When the story broke and Scott Morrison said that Australia was not established on slavery, and he was technically correct Sydney Cove was not established by slavery, but we certainly had slaves in the sugar industry, and there were some Aboriginal people treated much like slaves as well, the left of the Labor party jumped on him about Aboriginals but not one mentioned the South Sea Islanders. It’s as if they don’t want to know.”

He would like to see scholarships established in the countries where people were taken in the blackbirding years, to make amends.

“The Commonwealth Government through Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade should establish scholarships here in Australia for selected students from the South Pacific, say a dozen at a time, to do nursing and education in Australia free of any cost to themselves, so they can then go back to their country and lift the standard of living.

“If we don’t, the flag of China will be flying all over the South Pacific.

“It’s not a lot of money. It’s 50 thousand dollars for a full scholarship for a student to complete.

“It wouldn’t be hard, we need to do it, we need to do it in Australia’s national security interests, we need to do it because it’s fair and decent and we need to do it to close the book on a past that’s been very very poor from our perspective. Britain has to wear a lot of responsibility too because this happened while we were a colony.”

Behind the Scenes

When the blackbirding story came to the forefront of the news again, I was very pleased to see so many people retweeting my ABC Radio documentary on the subject from a couple of years ago.

That story won a silver and a bronze award from the New York Festival International Radio Awards.

If you want to listen to more on blackbirding, with more interviews from from Brian Courtice and Australian South Sea Islanders themselves, you can listen to that 20 minute doco at this link:

https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/pm/summer-special-blackbirding/9282632

You can also listen to this latest podcast episode featuring Brian Courtice’s interview through your podcast provider if you prefer, by searching for “Streets of Your Town podcast” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or whatever is your podcast player of choice.

Otherwise you can go to the Journo Project Press Freedom Facebook page and share that with your friends after you’ve had a listen to the podcast through the link there.

What I’m watching

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most important pieces of journalism to come out this year. I highly recommend Stan Grants’s “Talking to My Country” book too, for those who want to come to a truer and deeper understanding of Indigenous history, race, and racism in this country. His Four Corners piece “I Can’t Breathe” is must-see viewing and you can watch it again on iview at this link:

https://iview.abc.net.au/show/four-corners/series/2020/video/NC2003H023S00

Upcoming

I am progressing well with the book from the more than two dozen journos who I interviewed exclusively for series 2 of Streets of Your Town—The Journo Project.

I’m looking at pulling together all of my two dozen Journo Project podcast interviews with Australia’s leading journos, into an e-book that can be used for budding and experienced reporters alike for guidance on how to do this country’s best reporting.

People who are paid subscribers to this substack newsletter and help put petrol in my kombi to keep me getting these stories, will each get their own copy of The Journo Project e-book.

Would you like a copy too? Then you can join these fabulous people who I want to give a big THANKYOU shout out to for supporting the work of this Wandering Journo!

Big shout out to my recently renewed paid sponsors! You are absolute legends all!

Deanna Nott
David and Dianne Haxton
Tamara Hunyadi
Cathie Schnitzerling
Andrew McGarry
Fiona Sewell
Hedley Thomas
Natalie Larkins
John Maume
Jane Lindsay
Rachel Tyson
and Jan Nary

If you were a paid subscriber last year to The Journo Project your renewal should be coming through shortly. Keep an eye out for it. Just let me know by reply email to this newsletter if you’re no longer in a position to be a paid subscriber and I’ll work out all the other details for you. Really appreciate all of your support—for however long that is possible!

In this time of isolation and social distancing, I hope you can help make the world a smaller place as part of The Wandering Journo tribe and share this email and of course my Streets of Your Town podcast with your friends.

Thanks for making this all possible!

Talk soon! And stay safe my beautiful Wandering Journo tribe!

Nance

An incredible year of The Journo Project

What an incredible year for Streets of Your Town—The Journo Project!

As we all emerge from our Covid-induced slumber, and wonder what on earth comes next, I just want to thank you all for your support through this toughest of years.

What started as a dream to interview Australia’s best journos and celebrate their commitment to the craft in the face of increasing pressures on press freedom, is now more than two dozen episodes strong.

And if you need reminding, here is a roll call of the 27 brilliant journos from across our wide brown land and links to each of the episodes which have inspired us over the past year: https://player.whooshkaa.com/shows/streets-of-your-town

Or you can revisit the archives with the newsletters: https://soyt.substack.com/archive

And the last four episodes were talking to journos as Covid-19 started to wreak havoc across Australia. What an incredible slice of emerging Aussie life you have enabled and brought to life my friends.

This is important oral history for the nation, and could not have happened without you. The Journo Project is all because of you my subscribers.

I can’t thank you enough for believing in me, and spreading the word to your mates and colleagues about the importance of celebrating the great journalistic achievements that have given us freedom and democratic rights as a nation.

While I too took a hit through Covid, with a troublesome tooth and flooding hot water system still wreaking some havoc, it was knowing that you all kept subscribing that helped pull me through. Truly. And to keep producing top podcast content for you to continue to spread the word. That if we take our press freedoms for granted, they will continue to dissipate. And in this era of Covid, combined with cutbacks to media across the nation, we need a robust fourth estate more than ever.

So I thought I’d end the financial year with a story of hope in the face of the regional media cutback tidal wave of late.

It comes from one of my other podcasts, Remarkable Tales, which I produce for Griffith University.

Sometimes it’s the stories of people starting out in the face of such great obstacles that gives us hope.

In this podcast I speak to Taylah Fellows, who has snared a highly prized cadetship at Scone in the Upper Hunter Valley, to kick off her journalism career.

And I want to let you know that if you decide to continue to support me with a paid subscription through this coming year, not only will you get Wandering Journo merch, but you will also get first dibs on The Journo Project book that will pull together all of these interviews and insights from the journos you’ve enabled me to interview.

I’m also going to do my bit for regional journalism, where my career began with the ABC in a one room office in Port Augusta covering two thirds of South Australia’s outback. I'll continue producing the Streets of Your Town podcast doing interviews from all the small towns I travel to in Mildred my cantankerous kombi. Know that your support puts petrol in my van, and toasted sandwiches in my kombi to help bring you the stories from beyond the everyday stories in our capital cities.

If you are a paid subscriber, your renewal will come any day now. You can resubscribe for a year or monthly. Please support with a paid subscription if you can, to keep my storytelling from the road alive.

And please, share this newsletter widely to spread the word about the Streets of Your Town podcast.

And if you can, please review Streets of Your Town in your podcast provider of choice so that the word spreads and it gets into more earholes.

Feel free to reply to this email and you will get me—not someone else but little old me! Tell me what stories you’d like to hear more of, what your concerns are about press freedom in Australia, or even just say g’day—I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you all my great Journo Project supporters!

Nance

Gerard Ryle on the need to provide reliable information at this time of crisis

  
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This latest episode of my podcast Streets of Your Town—The Journo Project, features investigative reporter extraordinaire and head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists Gerard Ryle.

Just click on the play button above for your listening pleasure!

Leading global journalist Gerard Ryle says the Covid-19 crisis has presented an opportunity for journalists to prove journalism’s worth to society.

Gerard Ryle is the head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, overseeing a worldwide team of journalists.

Under his leadership over the past seven years, ICIJ has become one of the best-known journalism brands in the world.

Gerard became the ICIJ’s first non-American director almost ten years ago, after spending more than 20 years working as an investigative reporter and editor in Australia. In that time he investigated subjects from politics to financial and medical scandals, and police corruption.

He has transformed the organisation to lead two of the biggest investigations in journalism’s history, the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers.

He says with the Covid-19 pandemic, there’s an increasing need for timely, accurate reporting and a free press.

“I think it’s an opportunity again for journalists to prove that journalism is actually useful,” Gerard says.

“You’re seeing from the leadership of some countries the danger if you’re not getting accurate information, what happens. I think now you’re now seeing it in real time.

“Truth really matters. This is another opportunity to show that. It is an opportunity, again, for journalism to be relevant.”

He tells me on the The Journo Project podcast, that it’s crucial journalists provide reliable information at this time of crisis.

“I mean, people are now turning to the media for news on the coronavirus almost on an hourly basis. It does bring back the need for good information that is accurate,” he says.

“If essential services start breaking down, then we’re going to obviously be in trouble.

“We’re in critical times, and we don’t know what’s going to happen next. But at the same time, it’s very important to be calm and to help people.

“I guess that is the main reason why we are doing what we’re doing. We’re trying to show that journalism can be done at a level where it actually is useful to society and is in the public interest.”

Gerard says Australia is now one of the most difficult countries in the world to report from.

“When I worked here for like 20 years, it always struck me that this was one of the most difficult places in the world to be a journalist,” Gerard says.

“I think that all I’m seeing now is confirming my views.

“We do not have press freedom in Australia, because the defamation laws here prohibit you being a journalist.

“But I also think that that’s led to a lot of very sloppy journalism.”

He argues that a lot of journalism that is practiced in Australia is not very good, because there’s no incentive for it to be good.

“In America, for instance, as long as you’re fair to the person, you’re not showing any malice—it’s very difficult to sue,” he says.

“But that requires you then going to the person that you’re about to write for, sometimes weeks in advance, and giving them the entire context of what you’re about to do.

“I think that makes for better journalism in the end.

“Whereas here, the practice is always to confront someone, sometimes even the night before you’re about to go to publication. That can lead to mistakes.

“I think it can lead to worse journalism, if I can put it that way, because you’re not giving the proper context.

“I’m saying that, because I did that myself in the past. Because you were always worried about getting injuncted, and so therefore, an injunction would stop you publishing. So you would go as late as possible to the person you were writing about, because that was the way it was. Then afterwards, you would fight it out in court. That, I think, has led to poorer journalism.”

He says that long-time trend has exacerbated Australia’s high media concentration, which also causes complications for media freedom.

“You need to have very deep pockets to be a media owner in Australia, because you are likely to be sued,” he says.

“I mean, it was quite common to get a legal letter the day after publication here if you were an investigative journalist, so it was totally accepted.

“I was very shocked to learn that in America if you get a legal letter, you really have to worry about that legal letter, because it means that you have, in someone’s eyes at least, shown malice. A court case over there can be very expensive.

“In Australia, it’s incredibly common. Almost every investigative reporter in Australia right now is fighting some sort of legal case involving some story they’ve done in the past.”

Two federal parliamentary inquiries into press freedom in Australia are ongoing, and while submissions have closed, neither have handed down their final report.

It’s clear that current events are unfolding faster than the inquiries can keep up with.

Reporters Without Borders has described Ryle’s work with ICIJ as “the future of investigative journalism worldwide” naming him as one of “100 information heroes” of worldwide significance.

Gerard is a book author and TED speaker and has won or shared in more than 50 journalism awards from seven different countries.

He still calls on his experiences working as a journalist where his reporting career began, in his native Ireland.

“I come from a big Irish family. The older kids tell the younger kids what to do,” he says.

"Every time somebody new comes into the ICIJ now on a big collaboration, it is mind-blowing for them, because they go, ‘Well, why would I want to share information? Why would I want to tell someone what I’m finding?’

“It’s the opposite of everything they’d been taught to do. But it’s the older journalists, the ones that have done it before, that say, ‘No, this actually works. Trust us. This is going to work. I know it’s crazy, but it works.’ You’ve got to share.”

He’s hopeful these new methods can actually renew Australians’ faith in the power of great journalism.

Behind the Scenes

It’s unbelievable looking back on this interview with Gerard and that we managed to pull it off and get me home from Sydney to Brisbane JUST IN TIME before the airlines really started winding back their services.

And what a different world it is now.

I did this interview at Gerard’s home in Sydney, where he was caught out and unable to return to his usual Washington base as head of the ICIJ, because of the coronavirus travel restrictions. So what was once a short holiday home, has now become more of an extended sojourn.

You can also listen to Gerard through your podcast provider if you prefer, by searching for “Streets of Your Town—The Journo Project” on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or whatever is your preference.

Otherwise you can go to The Journo Project Press Freedom Facebook page and share that with your friends after you’ve had a listen to the podcast through the link there.

What I’m reading

This story lays bare a lot of the gender politics that is not talked about but is definitely at play in this time of social distancing, and the ramifications for families and society.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Amidst the upheavals, it has laid bare how little we normally pay for “women’s work”.

Australia has very low gender equality when it comes to remuneration, ranking 49th on the World Economic Forum Gender Participation and Opportunity Index 2020 that measures workforce participation, remuneration and advancement.

COVID-19 has laid bare how much we value women’s work & how little we pay for it —Women’s Agenda

And Nas Campanella has been incredibly busy since featuring on last week’s Journo Project podcast! The ABC has promoted this talented journo to the national round of Disability Affairs Reporter.

Which further highlights one of my favourite quotes from her in my podcast:

“For too long, stories about people with disabilities, they haven’t been told by people with disabilities so I really am quite keen to change that and to show the community that people come in all shapes and sizes and even though a person might not communicate in the way that you or I do, they still have a voice, they still have a story to tell and it's a damn important one and they deserve the time in the public to share that story if that's what they choose to do.”

Go well Nas! She’s already kicking massive goals with this story from AM this week—have a listen or read the transcript here. Nas’s heightened news sense is highlighting what is still being ignored, that people with disabilities are missing out on vital care and supports during this Covid-19 crisis, and more needs to be done to educate people about their particular needs that should be supported.

Upcoming tease

And now, after releasing this my last podcast from my Sydney Journo Project sojourn, funded by you my beautiful subscriber tribe, it’s time for me to consider the next chapter of Streets of Your Town—The Journo Project.

I’m now looking at pulling together all of my two dozen Journo Project podcasts with Australia’s leading journos, into an e-book that can be used for budding and experienced reporters alike for guidance on how to do this country’s best reporting.

If you have any ideas or tips on how best I can do this, please just press reply to this email and let me know!

In this time of isolation and social distancing, I hope you can help make the world a smaller place as part of The Wandering Journo tribe and share this email and of course the Journo Project podcast with your friends.

Thanks for making this all possible!

Talk soon! And stay safe beautiful people!

Nance

Nas Campanella on empowering rather than patronising in disability reporting

  
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In this latest Streets of Your Town—The Journo Project podcast, journo extraordinaire and Triple J newsreader Nas Campanella.

Just click on the play button above for your listening pleasure!

This week’s Journo Project features Nas Campanella, who is thought to be the only blind newsreader in the world.

Nas is a journalist and radio newsreader on the ABC’s national network, Triple J, and a proud journo who has wanted to do this job since her teens.

She secured a highly sought after ABC Cadetship in 2011, spending her first year newsgathering in Sydney before moving to Bega where she began newsreading.

Nas lost her sight when she was six months old and uses an audio speech program to help her read the radio news bulletin. She doesn’t read braille.

“I’m very, very fortunate that I was born in a time and grew up in a time where all this amazing technology has been developed and enabled me to thrive and given me opportunities that other people who were blind decades ago would never have been able to do, which is amazing,” Nas says.

“For too long, stories about people with disabilities, they haven’t been told by people with disabilities so I really am quite keen to change that and to show the community that people come in all shapes and sizes and even though a person might not communicate in the way that you or I do, they still have a voice, they still have a story to tell and it’s a damn important one and they deserve the time in the public to share that story if that’s what they choose to do.

“I think having a public profile on Triple J and now on television has meant that I’ve somewhat normalised the fact that people with a disability, not only can they work, but they can work really hard and in high profile roles and that it’s possible because the ABC’s made it possible and shown people that it can work really well and that it doesn’t take huge amounts of money or huge amounts of support.

“I don’t need a person to come and hold my hand to do it. I’m fine on my own.”

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

You can hear what Nas hears while reading the news in this story:

How ABC triple j newsreader Nas Campanella's experience of being blind is informing ABC News coverage of people with a disability

Her typical day at work would make many people’s heads spin.

“You’ll know the local, national and international stories of the day, even before you step foot in the office. I would’ve been listening to probably three different radio stations across the morning, just flicking, have a look at some of the headlines in the papers and online and things like that so you come in and so we’ll go through the stories that pop in on the ABC wire,” Nas says.

“We might rewrite the stories, cut our own audio, we do our own interviews and write our own stories as well, and so you’ll put those stories into a bulletin of three minutes exactly and then pop into the studio and read it and then you’re obviously repeating that for several hours.

“After you come off the air, you’re writing stories again, even though you’re writing in between the bulletins.

“Then I often do a story for Hack or a story for one of our flagship current affairs programs like AM. Last Friday, between my bulletins, I was doing interviews, cutting audio, writing a script for Saturday AM, I had a story about how coronavirus is impacting the disability community.”

After her ABC cadetship, Nas was determined to have a regional posting, with the experience still informing her work as a reporter and newsreader today.

“After my cadetship, which was a steep learning curve, most cadets go off and do a regional placement and at the time, I was offered a full time ongoing position in Sydney, it was going to be really cushy and great and no one had ever been offered that before, but I was pretty devastated because I wanted to be given that same opportunity to go and professionally and personally have that regional experience,” she says.

“I just wanted to be treated like everyone else. That’s all I’ve ever wanted, that’s all anybody wants, and I thought if everyone else is going off for this new challenge, this new chapter, then I need to do the same thing.

“I was really lucky that the ABC made that happen and I went off to Bega, in the New South Wales far south Coast, and I was there for 12 months and that was where I really learnt to be a journalist.

“No one was feeding me stories, there was rarely press releases that came in, it was all about making good contacts and keeping those contacts and keeping your ear to the ground and listening to what was going on and coming up with the news agenda of the day for a huge region.

“For me, when I went down there, it seems really trivial but I have this thing that I wanted to milk a cow, shear a sheep, and go fishing and I did all of them and it was on these amazing farms with these amazing people and I came back with stories and beautiful life experiences that I’ll cherish forever.”

Above: Paul Kennedy, Lisa Millar and Nas Campanella presenting on ABC News Breakfast

Not one to stop there, Nas is now also an accomplished television reporter, sending reports around the country from the Disability Royal Commission and also filing from overseas.

As Nas explains on this episode of The Journo Project podcast, she hopes that her example gives Australians a glimpse of how much people with a disability are capable of.

“When I first started in journalism way back at uni and people were often saying, ‘Oh, you’ll never be able to do television. It’s not going to work’,” she recalls.

“I had multiple reasons why thrown at me but I think it’s been really gratifying to now do it, and to show others than I can actually work when you put the right supports in place and I’m really lucky to have an organisation and a team behind me that are willing to make it work and that’s all you need.”

She says her reporting from the Disability Royal Commission has been incredibly challenging, but rewarding.

“It’s been emotionally draining and physically challenging as well in terms of so many commitments in terms of TV, radio, online, live crosses and all those types of things but I’ve really loved it,” she says.

“I’ve loved being there to talk to witnesses after they’ve come out of giving really personal intimate, sometimes very tragic, stories and evidence and I feel a huge responsibility because we don’t have many journalists who at least publicly identify as having a disability.

“It’s really great for me to feel like I can be a person who people can feel comfortable to talk to and that I have a level of understanding and knowledge of the sector that perhaps other journalists don’t, and I can bring a level of analysis to the story that others might not be able to.

“What I’ve loved is that my managers have expected of me what they expect of every other journalist and that is to file accurate, fair, balanced stories to the deadline that’s expected.”

Nas is also changing the way the ABC operates too. Before the start of the Disability Royal Commission, she developed ABC’s first disability editorial guidance note, that is a guideline for journalists anywhere on best practice when reporting disability issues.

“It’s publicly available and it’s just really quite frankly simple common sense tips and tricks,” she says.

“Don’t ask someone about their disability if it’s not relevant to the story, don’t patronise.

“If you are there with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, address them, don’t address your questions about them to their interpreter.

“You can still put people who are deaf or hard of hearing on radio, you just need to find an interpreter to facilitate that.

“I think as long as you come from that perspective of wanting to empower rather than patronise or just to remember that you’re supporting people to tell their story is a good place to start.”

Behind the Scenes

It’s incredible looking back on this interview with Nas and that we managed to just get it in before the closures of cafes and gathering places took hold.

We did this interview at a cafe just next to the Sydney ABC studios in Ultimo, as with the looming spread of Coronavirus we had to change plans, as I wasn’t allowed into the ABC building!

It was a challenging interview all round, not because of Nas who as always was AMAZING, but because we had to contest with all the audio of a bustling Sydney starting to bunker down in response to Covid-19. Then just as we were well entrenched into our interview the rain came! So we bustled inside the cafe where of course we then had to contest with cafe grinders and more noise! But in the end the podcast sounds great—I hope you’ll agree! Just lots of, as we say in the game, “ATMOS". Consider it my tribute to podcasting audio as Theatre of the Mind—you will feel like you’re embedded there with us on the table with the bustle of the cafe going on all around us!

You can also listen to Nas by searching for “Streets of Your Town—The Journo Project” on your podcast provider of choice.

Or if you prefer you can go to the Journo Project Press Freedom Facebook page and share that with your friends after you’ve had a listen to the podcast through the link there.

What I’m reading

What a huge week this has been in the journo world. The worrying ramifications for press freedom as a result of last year’s Australian Federal Police raids on News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst and the ABC have come up many times in The Journo Project podcast. Well, in a recent judgement The High Court simultaneously found that the warrant used on Annika Smethurst was unlawful, but didn’t make the AFP give back what they took in that raid. For a full explainer on how that could happen, there’s no better than this article from Journo Project star and internationally renowned journo Peter Greste.

And continuing in that vein, this story on the pressures coming to play on regional media worries me greatly. Regional newspapers are the lifeblood of country towns. Especially at this time when we need reliable and respected sources of information to counter a lot of the unverified rubbish that is shared on social media.

Coronavirus is changing the way we think about a lot of things, and screen time is just one of them.

If you’re getting coronavirus overload (who isn’t really?) then I found this a great tonic: Things Keep Getting Scarier. He Can Help You Cope.

And sometimes it takes the arts to move you to places you need to be, to reflect and fully appreciate the truly historic event we are all living through. This moment with Andrea Bocelli did that for me.

Upcoming

Our next episode of The Journo Project features none other than investigative journo extraordinaire Gerard Ryle. Gerard Ryle is the head of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, overseeing a worldwide team of journalists who have worked on some of the biggest investigations in journalism’s history, such as the Panama Papers.

He says Australia is now one of the most difficult countries in the world to report from.

In this time of isolation and social distancing, I hope you can help make the world a smaller place as part of The Wandering Journo tribe and share this email and of course the podcast with your friends.

Thanks for making this all possible!

Talk soon! Messenger wine tasting perhaps? Don’t be a stranger!!!

Nance

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