History of Watchem
Originally part of the Djadjawyrybg and Djabwyrung lands, Watchem was settled by Europeans in the 1870’s.
In its hey-day, Watchem was a self-contained town with a butcher, baker, bank, rail station, doctor, dentist, race track, two schools, bush hospital and a garage.
Watchem now comprises about 80 houses, two churches, a hotel, a general store and a community resource centre tucked between the Sunraysia Highway and the train line. Trains still travel along the line, but, like the large trucks travelling up and down the Sunraysia Highway, now just pass through the town.
Community has always been important to Watchem with the football club, bowling club, churches and local school being the centre pieces of the town. The churches and the bowling club are still active, but the Primary School closed in 2002, the same year the football club merged with nearby Birchip.
Watchem’s population today is a couple of hundred at most, including former farmers, descendants of some of the original settler families and new arrivals attracted by low house prices and the weather.
The weather is always fine in Watchem, the day’s dawn clear and bright, the sun beats down, even if the air is coolish.
More than anything else the Watchem folk want their lake back. They want GWM Water to turn on the tap they shut off three years ago, causing the football-field-sized lake west of town to dry up. Postcards in the general store show how the lake was once a summer playground, where people water-skied, picnicked and swam.
Watchem people see the lake and the town as being intimately linked. Without the former, the latter will continue to struggle.