Get us in your inbox

Search
A view of Melbourne's city skyline after sunset.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Nine of the best things invented in Melbourne to boost your city pride

From much-loved snacks to medical breakthroughs, Melbourne really can do it all

Written by
Ashleigh Hastings
Advertising

Melbourne is known for its superior espresso, arty inner suburbs and bustling laneways, but maybe we should be thinking of our sweet city as a hotbed of innovation. We knew the city was known as marvellous Melbourne for a reason, but it turns out Melbourne can take credit for a whole heap of beloved Aussie brands, as well as devices that make a huge difference in people’s lives.

It’s time to take a trip through the history books and see just how much we Melbournians have to brag about. Let’s take a look back at some of the most impressive (and sometimes surprising) things that have been invented in good ol’ Melbs.

After more fun facts? Here are 35 things about Melbourne that you probably didn't know. Want to put your local knowledge to the test? Take our quiz to find out if you're a true Melburnian.

Nine of the best Melbourne inventions

Cherry Ripe
Photograph: Shutterstock

Cherry Ripe

What do you get when you mix moist coconut, juicy cherries and sumptuous dark chocolate? One of Australia’s oldest chocolate bars, the Cherry Ripe! This classic confection was invented way back in 1924, right here in our wonderful city.

These days Cherry Ripe bars fall under the iconic Cadbury name, but they were originally the brainchild of MacRobertson’s, who were pretty much the chocolate kings at the time. The company’s Fitzroy-based operation employed an impressive 5000 staff churning out various chocolatey delights at its peak in 1939 – that’s a lot of sweet tooths fed.

Kiwi Shoe Polish
Photograph: Shutterstock

Kiwi Shoe Polish

The Kiwi brand of shoe polish has long been a household staple in Australia and it was even used by the British Army during World War I. 

Judging from the name alone, you’d be forgiven for thinking Kiwi originated across the ditch in New Zealand. In reality, the business behind Kiwi started out in Bouverie Street in Carlton before moving to more prominent premises in Elizabeth Street in the CBD – you can’t get more Melbourne than that! So, why the name? The inventor named the shoe polish after his wife’s New Zealand origins.

Advertising
Freddo Frogs
Photograph: Shutterstock

Freddo Frogs

If you thought the Cherry Ripe was the only Aussie chocolate staple that Melburnians can claim, think again. Just six years later in 1930, MacRobertson’s was at it again inventing the Freddo Frog.

Founder Macpherson Robertson originally wanted to fashion a chocolate in the shape of a mouse, but one of his employees reckoned it might put off the kids. Can you imagine toting around one of those fundraising chocolate boxes asking everyone to fork out for a little chocolate mouse? It’s just not the same.

Dim Sims
Photograph:

Dim Sims

The humble ‘dimmy’, saviour of peckish punters Australia-wide, was indeed invented in Melbourne. A much bigger, thicker-skinned twist on a type of traditional Chinese dumpling called siu mai, dim sims are the innovation of Chinese chef William Chen Wing Young.

Young renamed and popularised sui mai as dim sims, which are typically filled with pork and cabbage, in the 1940s. Today there are countless iterations of the snack in both steamed and fried versions.

Advertising
Australian Rules Football
Photograph: Creative Commons

Australian Rules Football

AFL has grown into a national competition, but Melbourne is especially obsessed with the game thanks to its local roots. More than 4 million people across Australia tuned in to the AFL Grand Final in 2021, but only Melbourne gets an entire parade and public holiday in its honour.

Aussie rules developed in the parks of Melbourne as something of a mixed bag incorporating elements of soccer, rugby, Gaelic football and a Koorie game known as Marngrook. The first recorded game is said to have taken place between Melbourne Grammar School and Scotch College way back in 1858.

The eight-hour work day
Photograph: Olia Danilevich

The eight-hour work day

Take a stroll down to the corner of Russell and Victoria Streets in the Melbourne CBD and you’ll find a mysterious monument topped with a golden emblem reading ‘888’. It’s the Eight Hour Day Monument and it refers to the daily model of eight hours of work, eight hours of nap-time and eight hours of Netflix and chill – the latter two being more commonly known as rest and recreation.

So what’s the story behind the big stone? In 1856, Melbourne’s stonemasons were in the middle of building Melbourne Uni’s Old Quad building when they walked off the job right to parliament to demand better working conditions. The rest, as they say, is history.

Advertising
Bionic ear
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bionic ear

The Melbourne-born bionic ear has helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world gain hearing. In the late 1960s, Professor Graeme Clark conducted game-changing research at the University of Melbourne Department of Otolaryngology that led to the invention of the bionic ear. This major medical breakthrough took time and the first implant didn’t happen until 1978, but updated versions of the device are still used today.

Black box flight recorder
Photograph: Shutterstock

Black box flight recorder

Dr David Warren came up with the idea for the black box flight recorder after being part of an air crash investigation where there just wasn’t enough data to figure out what happened. He went back to his job at Melbourne’s Aeronautical Research Laboratories and got to work on a device that could withstand almost anything, including being dropped in the ocean.

At first Australian officials were actually relatively indifferent to the idea, but eventually, the black box became the ubiquitous aircraft feature we know today. Bonus fact: black boxes aren’t black, they’re usually an extremely bright and easier-to-find orange.

Advertising
Vegemite
Photograph: Flickr/Gordon Wrigley

Vegemite

There’d surely be some very un-happy little Vegemites around if we didn’t give Melbourne credit for arguably the most famous Aussie food. A chemist called CP Callister invented Vegemite in 1923 as a copycat for Britain’s Marmite, but the Aussie version has quite the unique twist.

Callister used leftover brewer’s yeast from VB maker Carlton & United Breweries to make the distinctive spread, which has been manufactured in Port Melbourne since 1923.

Recommended

    More on city identity

      You may also like
        Advertising

        The best things in life are free.

        Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

        Loading animation
        Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

        🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

        Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!