Group founder Monika Schott heartily endorses Melbourne Water’s website that dubs the Western Treatment Plant, as it’s officially called, as “so much more than a poo farm”.
Ms Schott loves the place so much that she visits two or three days a week and it’s not just to enjoy the peace (there’s not much odour), or watch the world-class bird life.
She is doing a PhD and writing a book about the social history of “the farm”.
For almost 100 years, from the plant’s opening in 1893, hundreds of employees and their families lived here.
By the 1950s heyday, there were 500 residents over four settlements, including four schools, a church and a general store.
Ms Schott says today there is a “gothic” feel to the now-deserted bluestone water tower, the hall, swimming pool and the sports pavilion in the main township in the farm’s north-east, now called Cocoroc.
In her three years of research, running a Facebook page called The Faraway Land of the House and Two Cows, Ms Schott realised the farm’s stories could be lost.
She is helping to revive the place and reconnect people and doesn’t want this to stop when her PhD is finished later this year.
Talks with workers have uncovered secrets, such as the two unofficial graveyards where miscarried and aborted fetuses were buried.
The farm has 20 kilometres of “beautiful”, untouched coast with shells that no one collects and remains of old fishing shacks.
Joining the Friends will be Pam Thompson, 58, of Ballarat, who with her two brothers grew up on the farm, with “lots of freedom, fresh air and exercise”.
The pool was a 10-minute bike ride away and in summer “it was the centre of our social life. Mum and Dad always knew where we were.”
Their father, mechanical engineer Ray Sadler, their grandfather and great-grandfather worked there.
Kids from rival schools in sport used to tease farm kids as being smelly and from the “shit farm”.
“It didn’t worry us,” Mrs Thompson said. “I would have rather grown up there than in suburbia. I don’t feel we missed out on anything.”
Ms Rampertshammer, of Werribee, was amazed by the Cocoroc ghost town and the beautiful scenery when she used to drive her sleeping baby around there about 17 years ago — before it was closed to public access.
“I’d think, my gosh, this is amazing, what is this place?
“It’s a gem of history, sitting here. And it’s played an important part in everybody’s lives. Without it Melbourne would have really suffered. We are all connected to it.”
Anyone interested in joining Friends of the Metropolitan Sewerage Farm can go to the Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Carolyn Webb is a reporter for The Age.