RELEASED July 29, 2022
Two men, who’ve become a TikTok sensation by making videos about their unique bond, are calling on Australia to re-think what friendship means this International Friendship Day.
Bill Cooper and Kyran O’Donnell have clocked up more than 50 million views on TikTok for the Brother Boy videos, which showcase a friendship straddling disability, culture and a state border.
Bill lives with Down’s syndrome and works at a supermarket in Wentworth, New South Wales. His best friend (and brother-in-law) Kyran O’Connell, based over the border in Mildura, Victoria, identifies as a First Nations Barkindji man and works as a landscaper with local government.
They have almost a million followers on TikTok for their videos, which feature dance moves, humour and messages about embracing diversity. They refer to themselves as the Brother Boys.
“We’re normalising the differences between us and not just us, but everybody,” Kyran said.
“We’re the opposite in every single way possible and that’s why our relationship is so strong – it also promotes inclusiveness because regardless of how different we are, we can still be best buds and get along just fine and have a good time.”
Their most popular video, featuring dancing, got over 24 million views, while another video about pranks got some 12 million views.
“We’re positive people and I’m a funny guy,” Bill said, on his TikTok fame. “Fans love my dance moves and the videos make people feel happy and excited to see the Brother Boys.”
Social Futures supports Bill as his NDIS Local Area Coordinator, and also runs some 20 other programs in regional NSW promoting inclusiveness.
“It is wonderful to see a person with a disability living their dream, and becoming a social media star,” Social Futures CEO Tony Davies said.
“Social Futures is a Partner in the Community to the NDIS, and we are passionate about supporting people with disability to live life the way they want to and pursue their goals, which in Bill’s case includes becoming a TikTok sensation.
“Through the NDIS, Bill has support workers who take him to and from his part-time job at the supermarket, and they also take him on a weekly social outing. Bill is often approached by TikTok fans for photos, and I hear his support workers are getting very good at taking these.
“Only recently a police officer and a doctor from the Royal Flying Doctor’s Service asked for a photo with Bill, which his support worker took. Bill loves doing this. If the United Nations is looking for ambassadors for International Friendship Day, I say go with these guys.
“International Friendship Day was established with the idea that friendships between people of different cultures and backgrounds can build bridges between communities – that’s what these guys are doing and that is also what Social Futures does.”
The one message Bill and Kyran want to get out on International Friendship Day (July 30 – proclaimed by the UN in 2011) is that making friends with someone from a different background can be enormously rewarding – perhaps more rewarding than having only a circle of friends comprised of people from similar backgrounds.
The pair met when Kyran began a relationship with Bill’s sister Lucy a decade ago. (The couple now have two children.)
“I didn’t know anything about Downs syndrome before meeting Bill,” Kyran said. “He is the same as anyone else, and he’s learnt about my culture since I’ve been in the family.”
In early July the pair attended NAIDOC events to celebrate Kyran’s First Nations background.
“I loved the NAIDOC Week activities,” Bill said. “I loved all the kids and the positivity.”
Bill and Kyran now receive hundreds of messages from fans around the world and are often stopped in the street.
“I meet fans who want to take photos and shake hands,” Bill said.
“The messages say we love what you’re doing – the bond between you and the energy and positivity that you spread. It’s amazing,” Kyran said.
“One message said, ‘I can’t get through a day without watching one of those videos to keep me up.’ To get messages like that makes you realise how special our bond is, and also that we are spreading a positive message around the world. I love it.”
For more information about Social Futures’ NDIS delivery call the LAC Hotline Monday – Friday 8:30-4:30pm on 1800 522 679 or email [email protected]