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A look around Canberra – Watson

By Alexandra Craig - 5 June 2015 18

watson

Pretty much everyone in Canberra has been to Watson before, whether they realised or not, as Watson is one of the first suburbs on the ACT/NSW border as you return on the Federal Highway.

Named after Australia’s third Prime Minister, John Watson, the suburb was gazetted on 7 April 1960.

While Watson seems mostly residential, it is home to a university, a school, one hotel, one motel, the Prime 7 and Southern Cross News studios. Watson also has its own local shops – probably a bit fancier than other suburbs given that it has a Supabarn and a post office. 

Until a long time after I moved to Canberra I had no idea there was a third university here. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) campus in Watson is relatively small compared to UC and ANU, but it has over 1000 students enrolled.

The median age of residents in Watson is 33. This was younger than I would expect, however I imagine due to the university and the number of students living on campus the median age is brought down a bit. The average annual income is just over $162,000 which again, I thought would be higher, but is probably lower for the same reasons as the median age. 

The Starlight drive-in cinema used to be in Watson, a huge apartment complex (cleverly named Starlight Apartments) now stands in its place. In recent years there was some successful lobbying by a group of citizens for the government to reinstate the old Starlight sign. As I wrote last year, I think this is a huge waste of money with no real value other than providing a few people with a trip down memory lane.

Earlier this year, the government said that while they will restore the sign, it will have a few changes including the back part of the sign not being lit to prevent light spill into the nearby apartments. Presumably the sign will be up before the end of the year. Watch this space.

Quick stats
Streets are named after:  Judges and members of the legal profession
Federal Electorate: Fraser
Federal MP: Andrew Leigh
Territory Electorate: Molonglo
Population: 5123
Population breakdown: 49.5 per cent male, 50.5 per cent female
Average children per family: 1.7
Crime: 69 incidents in 2014 (not including parking infringements)

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18 Responses to
A look around Canberra – Watson
1
arescarti42 12:46 pm
05 Jun 15
#

“Until a long time after I moved to Canberra I had no idea there was a third university here. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) campus in Watson is relatively small compared to UC and ANU, but it has over 1000 students enrolled.”

You may be surprised to know then that Charles Sturt University also has a Campus in Barton.

The median age of residents in Watson is 33. This was younger than I would expect, however I imagine due to the university and the number of students living on campus the median age is brought down a bit.

I don’t believe ACU has any on campus accommodation. I’d suggest that the lower median age has to do with the high percentage of units in Watson relative to other suburbs in Canberra, with young people tending to live in units.

Watson is also home to the Canberra Technology Business Park, which is located on the grounds of the former Watson high school.

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2
switch 12:55 pm
05 Jun 15
#

arescarti42 said :

“Until a long time after I moved to Canberra I had no idea there was a third university here. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) campus in Watson is relatively small compared to UC and ANU, but it has over 1000 students enrolled.”.

And ADFA…

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3
Ezy 2:33 pm
05 Jun 15
#

Watson also used to have an amusement park! Canberra once had a roller coaster!

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4
astrojax 4:47 pm
05 Jun 15
#

jesus, i wish my annual income was $162k! this is ‘household income’, surely?

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5
Dondon 5:50 pm
05 Jun 15
#

switch said :

arescarti42 said :

“Until a long time after I moved to Canberra I had no idea there was a third university here. The Australian Catholic University (ACU) campus in Watson is relatively small compared to UC and ANU, but it has over 1000 students enrolled.”.

And ADFA…

ADFA is part of UNSW, for those that didn’t know you can complete post grad studies at ADFA and not be part of the Military

We also have campuses for:
* Charles Sturt Universtity (in Barton)
* Queensland University of Technology (in Deakin)

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6
Alexandra Craig 8:40 pm
05 Jun 15
#

astrojax said :

jesus, i wish my annual income was $162k! this is ‘household income’, surely?

Apologies – I should have written household income.

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7
Paul0075 10:35 pm
05 Jun 15
#

Watson was my first taste of Canberra as a kid in the 70s and 80s, as Dad’s best mate lived there. So every few months or so, we’d load up the car for the long drive from Sydney.

It wasn’t until I got my licence that I discovered everything else outside of the northside.

These days I live in Canberra, as a result of my time spent in Watson as a kid. I live in Spence for now, but the plan is to buy a place somewhere around Watson, Dickson, Downer or Hackett in the next couple of years.

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8
creative_canberran 11:27 pm
05 Jun 15
#

Most people don’t seem to realise Canberra has 5 universities, but speaking with some bias, they all know the two that matter.

There’ more than just newsrooms at the SC and Prime7 installations, last decade they became the playout facilities for both networks. Everything people see on those networks well beyond Canberra goes through there. Originally SC’s predecessors CTC wanted to stay on Black Mountain and expand their studios, thankfully the planning authorities told them no so they moved it all to Watson in the 70s.

Ezy said :

Watson also used to have an amusement park! Canberra once had a roller coaster!

Yep, the old Canberry Fair. Part owner of the Hermitage Restaurant got out of the food business and decided to make an old fashioned country themed attraction with a restaurant, animal park and blacksmithing. The amusement park things were an add on. Poured over $7m in todays money into it in the late 70s, but by the 83 it had already gone broke once, was in trouble for dodgy financials and the creditors were calling. It’s fair to say the predictions they would attract over three quarters of a million people a year were optimistic too. And perhaps people were put off when the steam train failed it’s safety inspection meaning it could blow up. It struggled on for a while until new owners rebranded it Australia Park in 87. That went bust too, millions being owed.

Then it became Australian Heritage Village, a group of nine local investors buying it and one of them said “it would definitely work” this time. Well, that many Canberra’s will recall it sitting their desolate for years and it’s now replaced by houses, they were famous last words.

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9
Zan 10:41 am
06 Jun 15
#

There is also the Valour Park memorial park, part of the Remembrance Drive, just north of the old Canberry Fair. Watson is also the gateway to lots of walks up around Mt Majura, just north of the memorial park. There is also Youth With a Mission Canberra is part of the greater family of ministries called YWAM (why-wham) just before the roundabout where the BP petrol station is. Sometimes you might see cattle there. Last, but not least, there is the Potter’s Society which incorporates the Watson Arts Centre Exhibition, which holds the fabulous Bald Archy exhibition.

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10
JC 5:27 pm
06 Jun 15
#

Gee didn’t know having a Supabarn and a post office made a suburb fancier. Must add a few thousand the price of a house out there I reckon. Maybe the estate agents can start mentioning this in their blurbs.

Ps don’t get too excited it is a Supabarn express not a big one and as for the post office it is an LPO what makes it different is it is standalone whereas many LPOs are part of newsagents and the like.

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11
GardeningGirl 7:07 pm
06 Jun 15
#

Zan said :

. . Last, but not least, there is the Potter’s Society which incorporates the Watson Arts Centre Exhibition, which holds the fabulous Bald Archy exhibition.

I wonder if anyone else remembers what it was prior to the potters moving in?

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12
Alexandra Craig 8:23 pm
07 Jun 15
#

JC said :

Gee didn’t know having a Supabarn and a post office made a suburb fancier. Must add a few thousand the price of a house out there I reckon. Maybe the estate agents can start mentioning this in their blurbs.

Ps don’t get too excited it is a Supabarn express not a big one and as for the post office it is an LPO what makes it different is it is standalone whereas many LPOs are part of newsagents and the like.

I wish my suburb had a Supabarn and a post office! It is a genuine plus to a suburb in my eyes 🙂

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13
Zan 7:28 am
08 Jun 15
#

The society, a not-for-profit community organisation, was established in Canberra in 1975. A friend gave me this brief history of the building.

It used to be the Crafts Council with the Gem Society in one wing and the Potters Society on the other., and before that it was a Horse Era Musuem
and they used to rent out horse and carriages for weddings etc. When the Potters got the building it only had a roof and the Potters built the walls etc.
The Place where the shop is has an ensuite bathroom with a shower recess and there was a laundry out the back which has been made into the disabled toilet now.
It was used for emergency housing in the 1970’s after Cyclone Tracey.

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14
oh_ 5:14 pm
08 Jun 15
#

You forgot to mention the shops has Watson takeaway does great pizzas and greasy food if you need a fix, Satis vegetarian/vegan restaurant (with its nonchalant service) and Cherryripe Brasserie. Farmers Markets is also nearby on the weekends. The Starlight sign is overdue to be reinstated, the Apartment complex donated it to ACT Heritage who commissioned a design firm to work on restoration a year or so ago (proposal was that it be lit in a non intrusive way and placed adjacent to where it was as the heritage value was apparently that it was one of the few drive in movie signs of the era (1950s?) that stood in its original spot). Its also a bit of a split suburb (by the powerlines) – the northern side is newer and mostly apartments, the southern side is mostly houses, ACU, and the Canberra Technology Park which has the Academy of Interactive Entertainment and a lot of local screen companies (as well as the TV studios). Ted Noffs Foundation on Antill St is a juvenile drug and alcohol recovery facility, and the Carotel Motel is popular with visiting school trips and Summernats revellers.

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15
PCB 5:28 pm
08 Jun 15
#

I wish my suburb had a Supabarn and a post office! It is a genuine plus to a suburb in my eyes 🙂

Suburbs like Braddon and Turner are of course within walking distance of the City Superbarn. And people forget Braddon has a post office 🙂

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