After moving from the Snowy Mountains to Batemans Bay, film-maker and photographer Isabel Darling of Torchlight Media was sick of working from home and wanted to find the creative community she suspected was there – hidden in plain sight.
So in October 2016 she and Andrew Belk opened South Tribe, a co-working space anchored in a former warehouse.
South Tribe now hires 11 full-time desks to a wide range of workers – including a freelance digital marketer for the Sydney Opera House, a graphic designer, an underwater robot creator and the cloud storage specialists at Ronin.
“I wanted to get out of the house myself and socialize but I also wanted to flush out the creatives I knew were here, working in isolation,” Isabel says.
As well as finding those already there, Isabel wanted to make moving to the Eurobodalla attractive for people living all over Australia, who do the kind of work that can be taken anywhere.Isabel wasn’t sure how a co-working space would be received in a mid-sized, tourism-based town but she was determined to make it work, strategically choosing her site positioned between two NBN towers to make it attractive to anyone working remotely who depends on high-speed internet.
The site, a former carpet warehouse run by Don and Helen Burrows, needed a lot of work to make it into the space Isobel envisioned, add to that the big undertaking of funding and advertising her new business.
The Burrows were very supportive of South Tribe from the beginning, Isabel says.
“Sadly, Don passed away a weeks after we signed the lease in 2016 but he was a legend – he gave us a shot because we were young people wanting to try something different. Now Don’s wife owns the building and she is very supportive.”
David Rowland, of UnderseaROV, joined South Tribe a few months after the doors opened.
Dave and his co-workers at UnderseaROV, some of whom work from Sydney, specialize in sonar mapping and filming underwater environments with robots – because, he says, “everyone is curious about what’s happening underwater.”
“I started working on underwater robots as a hobby about five years ago,” Dave explains “and when I decided to give it a go as a career, I moved to Bateman’s Bay from Canberra to be closer to the undersea environment I’m working with.”
South Tribe has enriched Dave’s work life and has brought him in touch with “a great network of people,” he says.
“Before I had a desk at South Tribe, I worked wherever I could and was largely by myself. Now, if I find I need a video editor, I just turn around – South Tribe has a few media producers, including Isabel.”
Although the co-working space technically runs as a business now, Isabel says it’s “much more about function than profit” and would like to see South Tribe morph into a cooperative non-profit in the near future so that she can focus on her own creative projects, including the upcoming documentary ‘In For The Ride’ which explores the lives of ‘showies’ traveling the country show circuit as well as promotional work for Tourism NSW.
Dave advises anyone working from home in the Eurobodalla region to check out South Tribe.
“The people here inspire me to keep going even when things are hard.”
He laughs and adds, “we’ve had some good karaoke parties too.”