“There is nothing better than being up on stage.”
That is the view of Corey Burke, a singer and guitar player in Sunny Coast band The Outsiders, which is entirely comprised of young adults with a disability.
As a founding member of the band, 25-year-old Corey is promoting disability awareness through music to create an “inclusive place” where people can enjoy the sounds and feel that they belong.
Corey hopes the band can help people understand that “disability doesn’t have to hold you back”.
“You get to take off all of your disability hats and just be you,” he says of being on stage. “You’re not ‘autistic’ any more, you’re just a musician, like everyone else.”
Corey is particularly passionate about sharing information about the everyday reality of disabilities and dispelling myths through his songs.
“Something needs to be done to educate people because otherwise you could sit there and in 10 years’ time, there would be no change for people with an intellectual disability,” he says.
“I wanted to help change that.”
“We (the band) have a lot of knowledge to contribute, we just need people to give us the space to share.”
Corey says the band had no plans when they first got together and weren’t aiming to become as well known as they have.
“We didn’t know what we were at first,” he says. “We just knew we liked music and we wanted to have the chance to pursue that.
“We had a real passion and drive and just wanted to give it a go; without that passion and drive, we wouldn’t be here today.”
The band have written a range of songs across their time together, with their shared experiences with disability being a common source of inspiration.
The band’s first ever song was Outsider Blues, which was inspired by the perceived outsider status the group felt.
Corey credits his bravery and confidence to STEPS Pathways College, where he has been going for two years.
“They’ve been really supportive of me and very supportive when I struggle with things because of my intellectual disability,” he says.
“They’re very good at putting it in a way that I understand.”
The college teaches life skills to young adults with a disability, with the ultimate of having students living lives of independence.
Corey says he is excited to graduate and begin his “exciting plans for the future”, including moving out and living independently with his girlfriend, fellow college graduate Kate-Lyn MacKenzie.
As for his what’s next, Corey sees himself becoming a motivational speaker.
“I’m confident when I’m doing my music so I would love to do something different with that and speak,” he says.
“I think it can make a real difference.”
Sunny Coast Media, owner of the Sunny Coast Times, is running an online charity auction from October 25-29 with all proceeds going to STEPS Pathways College. For more details see page 24.