Ashley Peterson was nervous before taking to the stage.
Performing an original song for a packed crowd would be a daunting prospect for anyone, and he hadn’t done so since his year 12 formal three years earlier.
What made Mr Peterson’s performance even more special was that it wasn’t until his late teenage years that he was able to speak in public, let alone sing.
But when he finished the final bars of his song with a “peace out” on Tuesday, a grin spread across his face as the crowd broke out into cheers and applause.
The Seven Hills man then hosted an impromptu question and answer session with his new fans.
Mr Peterson’s performance was part of the Blacktown Council Talent Showcase for people with a disability at Max Webber Library on December 5.
Dubbed ‘Sunnyfield’s Ed Sheeran’, he wrote the song It’s Not Fair To Bully Me in year 12 and recorded it this year with the help of the not-for-profit and Blacktown Youth Services Association.
The 21-year-old explained he was originally going to perform Que Sera by Justice Crew but instead decided to do his own song.
“I like to be an original, not a copy,” he said. “I like to help other people through my music.”
Mr Peterson said the great reception to his performance was proof of his motto that nothing is impossible and you just need to persevere.
“There are no real barriers to becoming a singer – the only barriers are what people decide,” he said.
Mr Peterson was empowered to perform again by his support workers at Sunnyfield, a service he has been attending five days a week this year.
The not-for-profit has been providing a wide range of support services for people with an intellectual disability for 65 years. Its Blacktown hub opened in February this year and currently has 29 clients.
Mr Peterson is now working on another song, tentatively titled ‘All the Loved Ones In This World’, about Islamophobia.
He said he hopes Pauline Hanson listens to it and “thinks twice about what she says”.
“It’s about discrimination because that’s a type of bullying also,” he said.
“Everybody’s the same, there’s no difference, we all have flesh and blood. That’s what I believe.”
The talent quest was part of Blacktown Council’s series of free activities throughout the week to celebrate International Day of People With a Disability.
The week started with an Access All Areas film festival on Monday, and will also see a picnic at Blacktown Showground on Wednesday and an open day at Sargents Centre on Friday.
Mayor Stephen Bali encouraged everyone to check out the centre, which was purpose-built to help people with a disability and their carers.
“I am proud to be mayor of a city that embraces, supports and celebrates people of all cultures, backgrounds and abilities,” he said.