Watsonia and Watsonia North

Watsonia, a residential suburb south-west of Greensborough, is 15 km north-east of central Melbourne. Whilst Greensborough has the sub-regional shopping centre, Watsonia had several State schools which service the neighbouring parts of Greensborough.

Like Heidelberg and Greensborough, Watsonia was surveyed in 1838 for subdivisional sale as farms. The area remained rural well beyond the extension of the railway through the area (1902), as a station was not built until 1924. In that year local land owners, of whom one was Frank Watson, marketed the Grace Park Station Estate, Grace Park being the property from which Watson's land was subdivided. The station was paid for by the promoters and the Heidelberg council named the station Watsonia.

The area became best known for the Watsonia Military Camp during World War II. The camp was handed over to the State Housing Commission for emergency housing and in 1947 a temporary primary school was opened. In 1952 the Department of the Army resumed the camp for National Service Training. The area is now known as the Simpson Army Barracks, Yallambie, and is divided from Watsonia by a postcode boundary and previously by the boundary between Heidelberg city and Diamond Valley Shire (1963-94). During the 1980s the barracks came under protest as a site for the American military space satellite network.

Towards the end of the 1950s relatively cheap housing sites attracted new settlers. The War Service Homes Commission built some houses near where a high school was opened in 1962. The Watsonia technical school (later Greensborough Secondary College), and the Watsonia primary school were opened in 1958 and 1959. Three more primary schools were opened in 1965 and 1971. Watsonia high school closed in 1989 and a change to the boundary between Watsonia and Greensborough has left Watsonia with only its primary school. Since 1933 the Society of Jesus had its novitiate, known as Loyola College, on the northern edge of Watsonia. In 1973 the Society donated land on which the Loyola Catholic Co-educational college was established in 1980.

Watsonia continues to have an active RSL sub-branch, beginning with a tin shed in 1955 and winning the best licensed-club award in 1994. It includes a bowling club.

Watsonia has a strip shopping centre near the railway station and a smaller, neighbourhood drive-in shopping centre a short distance eastwards. There is no similar shopping centre in the northern part of Watsonia. There are two reserves, each with an oval, in the southern part of Watsonia, and a larger reserve and oval in the northern part.

Since 2000 Watsonia North has been its own suburb, separated from Watsonia along Grimshaw Street. It has a large public reserve, Binnah Park, with an oval and walking paths, a State primary school (513 pupils, 2014) and local shops.

In 2014 the aspirational document Picture Watsonia: a vision for Watsonia Village was released to guide development through to 2050. The community felt that change was overdue. Key challenges included managing growth, deciding the future use of land and creating connections, among other issues. A Watsonia 2050 postcard competition was held for primary school children to envisage the future. 

Watsonia's census populations have been:

census date population
2001 5044
2006 4905
2011 5146

Watsonia North's census populations have been:

census date population
2001 3925
2006 3836
2011 3846

Further Reading

Dianne H. Edwards, The Diamond Valley story, Shire of Diamond Valley, 1994

The tin shed and beyond: Watsonia RSL sub-branch, a history, Watsonia, 1996

Picture Watsonia: a vision for Watsonia Village, 2014