News Recognition for the smell of Vegemite
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Recognition for the smell of Vegemite

Vegemite smell.
The smell of Vegemite being made won't make it onto the heritage list. Photo: Getty
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There’s nothing quite like the smell of fermenting yeast in the morning, but is it a scent worth heritage listing?

If the wafting odour is a byproduct of  the nation’s best known toast topping it might be.

Melburnians who take the Westgate Freeway with their windows down, or who walk the streets at Fishermans Bend, will recognise the pungent odour of Vegemite being made.

Those with a nose are in the know.

The Victorian branch of Australia’s National Trust sought to have that odour included as part of an in-depth heritage review being conducted by the City of Melbourne.

Trust executive manager advocacy Felicity Watson said the strong smell from 1 Vegemite Way is part of the precinct’s “remarkable industrial heritage”. 

“Smells can evoke powerful memories and create strong connections between people and places. I’m sure that more Melburnians would be familiar with the smell of the former Kraft factory than the factory itself!” Ms Watson said. 

In a submission to the council, the trust referred to the ‘olfactory heritage’ of the site as an example of “intangible cultural heritage”.

Including the distinctive scent in official documentation about the site’s heritage would keep the memory of that tangy odour alive even if the ‘home of Vegemite’ stops making the salty spread.

A piece of history worth passing down to future generations as the area changes and the pong potentially dissipates.

While City of Melbourne has agreed to recognise the smell as an important part of the site’s history, there won’t be any requirement to continue making Vegemite in that building.

A move Ms Watson feels is “absolutely appropriate”.

“Our campaign is not about controlling the use of the site, it’s about acknowledging that the significance of this place for Melburnians goes beyond bricks and mortar,” she said.

  • You can read more about Vegemite’s smelly heritage here

Deputy Lord Mayor Nicholas Reece said although the smell is important, it shouldn’t prevent future development of the land.

“While we appreciate the attachment many people have towards the distinctive smell of the beloved spread that emanates from the Fishermans Bend factory, it is not considered appropriate to tie a smell to the ongoing use of the land,” Mr Reece said.

“Vegemite might be the spread that starts the nation, but it shouldn’t be the smell that stops the future development of Fishermans Bend.”

He said the council hopes it continues for “decades to come”.

Back in April, heritage portfolio lead Councillor Rohan Leppert said the site had an important history. 

Women started dehydrating veggies there as part of the war effort in 1943 and it has been recognised as part of Melbourne’s post-war recovery.

“In 1952 the site was expanded to include a ‘yeast factory’ that went on to become a household name and Vegemite is still being made at the factory today,” Mr Leppert said. 

A massive redevelopment project at Fisherman’s Bend will drastically change the area, with the promise of up to 80,000 jobs.

The council originally considered nominating five sites for heritage review, but has since whittled that down to three.

Reviews of the former Kraft Vegemite factory, Shed 21 and the electricity substation are expected to be completed in the coming months.