Stay Social support this year’s festival through our own social media circles because both my wife and I are well connected through our websites and ventures and last year we participated in the Festival of Cultures as well.

Diversity is really important. We can learn from each other because of the differences people have and their different experiences and life challenges. We’ve seen that through Australia’s history and the great benefits that a variety of cultures have brought to Australia and in particular the influences the Chinese have brought to Bendigo.

My family have been in Bendigo ten years and it wasn’t always the most multicultural city. But through the training work I’ve undertaken I have worked with and alongside engineers from all over the world. There have been changes for the best and because of the specialist jobs shortage we’ve seen some wonderful contributions from people all over the world at all ends of the spectrum. We now have more opportunity to speak to people from different cultures.

Stay Social has been operating for 18 months and it’s a very different concept offering unique accommodation in central Bendigo. It’s about offering an alternative to professionals regularly working away from home who are generally stuck in a motel/hotel and feeling isolated. Stay Social offers accommodation where people can meet and talk to others. It’s great to see that come back because I think we have lost a lot because of digital technology and our social communication, connection and sharing culture was much more active in the past. Stay Social is about promoting those social connections.

We’ve had groups stay here who did not know each other and who may have been a bit concerned about sharing the guest house and yet they’ve got so much from meeting other guests. To hear back the next day that people have ended up partying and dancing together, sharing food and stories, well it’s been wonderful to hear. It’s about breaking down that idea that we all need our private space, and we do need that sometimes, but we also need a balance of sharing. Of course you could stay in normal accommodation and do the tourist thing. But you get a richer experience if you have access to locals who involve you in local things and get beyond the tourist level and with Stay Social that’s what we try to do.

Interview and photo: Dawn Delaney