How it all began


How it all began

If you’re reading our new blog, I am pretty sure you are a Vegemite lover … so grab your toast, slather on some butter and Vegemite, take a seat, and read the first installment of Over Toast with Cyril.

Where did the idea to start a museum and cafe in a small Western Victoria country town begin? I will try and keep it brief.

About 10 years ago, I moved to the Pyrenees Shire as a tree changer. Driving around, I noticed a brown and white road sign that said Vegemite inventor Cyril Callister was born here.  I thought, ‘Wow, I did not know that’ and wondered how many other people were just like me. We all have Vegemite in the cupboard, but does anyone really know the story about the man who invented it?

My entrepreneurial brain kicked in. What if I created a museum in Beaufort that told the story about this man, how he was born in Chute, and about his life before Vegemite? The museum could sell Vegemite merchandise, we could open a cafe called Cyril’s and eat all sorts of delicious Vegemite-inspired treats. It would make Beaufort a must-see town for tourists from Australia and overseas.

In 2015, I managed to get a meeting with then owner of the Vegemite trademark Mondelez *USA. They loved the idea but said they were food manufacturers and didn’t have the funds or the manpower to assist with a project like that.

Jamie Callister, grandson of Vegemite inventor Cyril Callister, standing alongside the Chute sign marking the brithplace of vegemite.

I shelved the idea for a while, but people who know me, know I don’t give up. I’m a bit like Cyril in that regard – perseverance, determination, and resilience mean everything to me.

One day, I realised Mondelez did not own the name Cyril Callister. It was a breakthrough. I contacted his grandson. Jamie Callister had written a book about his grandfather. I told him my idea and he was supportive if the community drove it.

Display of vegemite memorabilia and merchandise in the Cyril Callister Museum in Beaufort

I contacted Mondelez again and asked for a grant to establish a farmers’ market booth at the monthly Beaufort Town Market to spread the word. I did all the official paperwork and created a not-for-profit, registered charity named the Cyril Callister Foundation Inc with Jamie Callister as President, his wife Libby Callister as Vice President and myself as Corporate Secretary. I told everyone I was going to create a museum and cafe in Beaufort. One day in the not-too-distant future the government would build a bypass and drivers would turn off this bypass to visit Beaufort, its historic buildings, and wonderful cafes. People thought I was crazy. Some still do.

2020 was the year of COVID. The monthly market closed and all was quiet. In 2022, the Beaufort Progress Association, offered a small space at the rear of their renovated retro petrol station in the heart of Beaufort to operate a monthly pop-up museum. The rent was free. I posted to social media and everywhere I could think of about the opening weekend, all the while wondering how I could create a display where people could learn about Cyril Callister and pay for merchandise so we could start raising some funds.

Then the universe worked its magic. A Melbourne man by the name of Paul Crohin saw my posts and contacted me. He said, ‘I have a lot of Vegemite memorabilia I would like to donate to your museum.’

Using a few fold-up tables, flags, and signs left over from the market stall, I created a very basic pop-up museum. People came. It was fantastic.

People drove in from all over Victoria to visit the museum once a month. They all loved Vegemite and wanted to be part of the museum family. Collectors donated memorabilia. Some left gold coins. I managed to save enough to buy merchandise. Our bank account started to grow. A local friend who was a grant writer agreed to help. Bingo, we had four small grants. My dream was becoming a reality.

Vegemite merchandise being donated to the museum by avid vegemite lovers
Museum founder, Liza Robinson meeting with some of the vegemite team from Bega

In 2023, we celebrated a milestone of 100 years of Vegemite and moved from the back of the petrol station to the front. Today we have a real museum with street frontage on the main road in Beaufort. Thanks, by the way, to Regional Development Victoria, which provided the grant that allowed us to decorate the larger space.

The Museum is open Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 2pm. At this time, we can just afford our monthly rent. Visitation is fantastic. People love what we are doing and what we are going to do. We have big plans and all sorts of wonderful opportunities are coming our way.

That’s it for today. My coffee is getting cold and I’ve finished my vegemite toast. I must get back to the day-to-day running of the museum. We hope you enjoyed your Vegemite toast and our first blog. Watch this space.

Vegemite picks you up for work poster

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