The City of Melbourne is currently undertaking a heritage study of Fishermans Bend, in order to plan for future development of the precinct. The former industrial area, adjacent to the Westgate Bridge, is slated for a major transformation, with 80,000 residents predicted to move in by 2050.

Multiple buildings and sites have been identified for potential heritage protection, including the operational Kraft factory at 1 Vegemite Way. The council has engaged consultants to help, including the non-government organisation the National Trust of Australia (Victoria).

“When we were reviewing the proposed heritage listing they put forward, we realised that something really important to that building was missing,” Felicity Watson, the trust’s head of advocacy, tells Broadsheet. “The smell of the factory. It’s a really distinctive experience.”

If you’ve driven past the factory, which is nestled hard against the Westgate Freeway, you’re probably familiar with the intense yeasty smell, which competes with that of Abbotsford’s CUB brewery for the title of Melbourne’s most iconic.

“It’s quite evocative and memorable,” Watson says. “It’s a significant indication of what that building is used for.

“The National Trust is not seeking for that smell and that process of manufacture to continue in perpetuity. We accept that there will be changes at the site and it might be redeveloped into the future. What we’re asking is for that smell to be recognised as part of the history.”

She says that could be done in several ways. If a plaque were ever erected to mark the site of the former factory, for example, it could mention the smell and make future Melburnians aware of its historical significance.

“[The buildings themselves] is what most people associate with heritage,” She says. “But what we’re trying to recognise is that people’s experience of cultural heritage is a lot more multi-faceted than that. It includes all of our senses. We experience places by smell and by sound [too].

“To our knowledge, this is the first time that a smell is being considered for heritage protection in Australia. But it is something that’s happened overseas. In 2018 Unesco inscribed the smell of perfume in the Grasse region of France, which is famous for producing perfume, to recognise the importance of that tradition and the process of making that perfume.”