STEPS Pathways College student promotes disability awareness through music

 In Our Stories

Corey Burke, a 25-year-old man with an intellectual disability, is promoting disability awareness through music.

Corey is a singer and guitar player in the band The Outsiders, which is entirely comprised of young adults with a disability.

As a founding member of the Sunshine Coast band, Corey is using his platform to promote the abilities of people with disabilities, and to create an “inclusive place” that people can enjoy music and feel that they belong.

Corey hopes that his promotion of disability awareness will be better communicated through music and will help people understand that “disability doesn’t have to hold you back.”

“There is nothing better than being up on stage,” Corey details.

“You get to take off all of your disability hats and just be you.

“You’re not ‘autistic’ anymore, 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 ten years’ time, there would be no change for people with an intellectual disability,” Corey said.

“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.”

The band weren’t initially aiming to become as well-known they have, in fact Corey says the band had no plans when they first got together.

“The band didn’t know what we were at first,” Corey said.

“We just knew we liked music and we wanted to have the chance to pursue that.

“All of us 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 has written a range of songs across their time together, with their shared experiences with disability being a common source of inspiration for their songs.

The band’s first ever song was “Outsider Blues”, a song inspired by the perceived outsider status the group felt.

Corey credits his bravery and confidence to his College, STEPS Pathways College, where he has been going for two years.

The College is the first and only boarding College Australia wide which teaches life skills to young adults with a disability, with the ultimate goal being students living lives of independence.

Speaking of the College, Mr. Burke calls it “amazing”.

“STEPS has just been really good; they’ve been really supportive of me and very supportive when I struggle with things because of my intellectual disability.”

“They’re very good at putting it in a way that I understand.”

Mr. Burke says he is excited to graduate from the College and begin his “exciting plans for the future”, including moving out and living independently with his girlfriend, 2021 STEPS Pathways College graduate Kate-Lyn MacKenzie.

As for his next issue of interest, Mr Burke said he sees himself becoming a motivational speaker and continuing to promote disability awareness.

“I want to get into motivational speaking, I’m confident when I’m doing my music so I would love to do something different with that and speak.

“I think it can make a real difference.”

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STEPS Pathways College students and visitors with their beehive