Andrea Nicolas is a Channel Seven journalist with a passion for the arts and politics. Here she talks about her career, her "Big Fat Greek Cypriot" family, and the cause that is closest to her heart.
‘I’ve been trying to use this time as a moment to pause and re-set’
What kind of child were you?
I was a happy, outgoing kid who loved performing arts from a very young age. I started dancing at two and a half and still do classes today. I enjoyed music and sport, doing singing lessons, playing netball, basketball and softball.
I went to Dernancourt Primary School and Kildare College. I always enjoyed school, particularly English and drama. I was first to sign up to auditions for school musicals and played the lead role in Annie in Year 11. I also enjoyed student leadership and was College Captain in Year 12.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always loved both performing arts and knowing what was going on in the world, so as a kid I was torn between pursuing a career in acting or journalism, but by the time I reached high school I was set on becoming a television reporter.
I went straight to university from school, studying a bachelor of arts in journalism with a sub-major in performing arts. I later studied a master of arts in journalism.
I really enjoyed learning every aspect of the craft, particularly the broadcast subjects, radio and television.
One of my fondest memories is the term I spent in a team putting together early morning radio bulletins at Radio Adelaide with some of my now-colleagues in the industry, Alex Hart, Tom Chadwick and Airlie Walsh. We worked hard but had so many laughs along the way. It was our first taste of the adrenalin-pumping deadlines of broadcast and, clearly, we all caught the bug.
How did you end up working at Channel Seven?
While I was finishing my masters, I did some casual reporting at WIN TV in the Riverland. I used this as an opportunity to build a showreel and sent it to Terry Plane, then News Director at Channel Seven. I then did a few stints of work experience there and it led to freelance work. After about six months freelancing, in 2006 I landed a full-time role at Behind The News with the ABC. I was there for a year before returning to Seven News. In 2011 I moved to London and spent 18 months there working for BBC World Television. One of the highlights of my time in London was being part of BBC World’s London Olympic team, helping to produce content including the torch relay coverage through Edinburgh. I also covered several stories for Seven News, including Julian Assange’s first appearance speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy and the final Harry Potter movie premiere from Trafalgar Square.
Have you had mentors over the years?
Walkley Award-winning journalist Murray Nicoll took me under his wing when I first started at Channel Seven. He always made time for young journos. He wasn’t just a reporter, he was a true storyteller and taught me the difference between re-hashing a press release and finding a unique angle, that would set your story apart.
He was also a wonderful friend and a true character who filled the newsroom with wisdom, laughs and his favourite recipes. We were all devastated when he lost his fight with leukaemia and he’s still sorely missed.
What do you love about being a journalist and what do you find difficult?
I love that every day is different. You never know where the story is going to take you and who you’re going to meet. I love the privilege of being able to ask the questions and have people trust me to tell their story with honesty and integrity.
The most difficult part is covering tragedies, like fatal car accidents and murders. Last year I covered the funerals of two young women who were taken far too soon.
They were the funerals of 15-year-old Sophia Naismith, who died after being hit by a Lamborghini at Glengowrie, and 20-year-old Sabrina Lekaj who was murdered by her father at Kidman Park.
I felt so much for the families and just wanted to do their stories justice. It never gets any easier; nor should it.
What has been the most fun story you’ve worked on?
I’ve been lucky enough in my role as Seven’s arts reporter to be sent to Europe, Asia and the USA to cover stories for the Art Gallery of SA, OzAsia Festival and the Adelaide Festival. I loved travelling to LA, where I met composer Danny Elfman. He composed the theme tune for The Simpsons and scores of Tim Burton movies including, Edward Scissorhands and Nightmare Before Christmas. It was just incredible to visit his studio where the movie magic happens.
What story rounds are you covering now?
I’m a general reporter, so I cover a bit of everything from crime and courts to footy finals, but my passions are arts and politics. They’re quite similar really – plenty of drama in politics.
I cover the arts as a mini-round, whilst keeping my hand in a variety of stories. I’ve often filled in in our Canberra bureau and spent six weeks there last year, to help cover the federal election campaign.
Currently, I’ve been contributing to our coverage on the coronavirus, trying to keep the community up to speed with the latest developments here and across the country.
How have you experienced loss?
This year it’ll be five years since I lost my dad, Jim Nicolas. He was the best man I’ve ever known: smart, compassionate, loving and extremely quick-witted. The master of sarcasm which, let’s be honest, didn’t always go down well with everyone. But Dad was well-liked and respected, especially by the hundreds of students and parents who got to know him as a primary school teacher over the years. I still have former students contacting me to say how much of an impact he had on their lives.
Dad was a larger-than-life character and above all a family man. He loved my mum, Lorraine, my brother, Darren and me, and he would have done anything for us, as well as our huge Greek Cypriot family. His passing has left a huge hole in all of our lives, but we keep his memory alive by constantly reminiscing and laughing about the good times we were lucky enough to have.
Sadly Dad was just 56 when he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimers. That diagnosis was devastating to us all. People expect it to be an older person’s disease, but here I was watching my fit, otherwise healthy and intelligent dad being impacted by this cruel condition. For a few years, he was still able to live a reasonably full life, but once his health started deteriorating, he went downhill fast. He passed away at the age of just 63.
I’m still brought to tears often, knowing what I’m missing out on with my dad. The years don’t make it easier, you just learn to live around the grief, but I know my dad of all people would want his family to be happy and living our lives to the fullest.
Since his passing, I’ve taken on the role of Ambassador for Dementia Australia, hoping to raise awareness and funds for those people who are living with the condition and their families. My biggest wish is that researchers have all the resources they need to find a cure.
What brings you joy?
Firstly, family and friends. I’m so lucky to have so many incredible people in my life, including my big fat Greek Cypriot family. It really can be like the movie. I love catching up over good food and wine and just telling stories, taking the mickey out of each other and laughing til it hurts. That is the ultimate joy.
Add to that overseas travel, the beach, music, singing and dancing and I’m in my element.
What is your biggest indulgence?
I guess when we’re not in lockdown my biggest indulgence is overseas travel. I’m always planning the next adventure. I’ve seen a lot of the world and lived in Europe for a couple of years, but there is still so much more to see. I’m not really a backpacking/camping girl, so it’s never quite a shoestring budget holiday.
Who makes you laugh out loud?
Seinfeld is hilarious. He has set the bar high for clever, funny social commentary. Even from the nosebleed seats at the Entertainment Centre, he had me in stitches.
How are you coping with COVID and the restrictions?
I’m coping pretty well, to be honest. I’ve been trying to use this time as a moment to pause and re-set. Sleep in, catch up on tasks I’ve been meaning to do, call friends I haven’t had a chance to see in person for a while. I know it won’t last forever, so I’m just trying to do my bit to keep everyone safe. I do miss hugs the most. I’m a big hugger.
I’m currently working mostly from home, like a lot of people during the COVID-19 restrictions. I’ve structured my day as close to a normal workday as possible. I make sure I’m “camera ready” by 9am and jump in on the morning conference call to keep up to speed with what’s planned for that day’s bulletins. It’s certainly been an adjustment from the bustling newsroom, however, I’m in constant communication with the team back at work and still meet up with the camera operators, so it helps to have that contact.
I’m normally a very social and active person, who loves to dine out with friends, go for drinks and visit wineries, basically all the things we can’t do right now. But I’ve been trying to support local businesses as much as I can by taking advantage of takeaway options and it’s a great way to still interact with people (from a social distance).
What do you feel passionate about these days?
I’m passionate about tolerance and equality. My parents raised me to have a big social conscience. It saddens me that in 2020 people are still having to fight for acceptance, equal rights and equal pay.
Do you have a life philosophy?
Make the most of every moment and be grateful. Really appreciate what you already have.
One thing we don’t know about you?
You might not know that I’ve been dancing since I was two. I still take classes twice a week, both hip hop and commercial jazz. It’s my favourite thing to do.
My South Australian Life is a first-person series, published each Sunday. Read our previous profiles here.