Fred Walker, founder of the Kraft Walker Cheese Company of Australia, was a truly great Australian. He was a philanthropist, a patron of the arts and a man of great vision. Here is his biography.
Fred Walker contributed greatly to the Australian economy by adding a new dimension to the Australian food industry, and laying the foundations for a strong, international company.
He was responsible for the development of many products, including processed cheese. Walker provided the inspiration for a yeast extract product, which has given Australians a national icon - Vegemite.
Born on 5 January 1884, Walker showed his drive and ambition from an early age. His father died when he was six years old, leaving his mother to care for Fred and his younger brother. Living in Hawthorn, the Walker brothers attended a state school; from there Fred won a scholarship to Caulfield Grammar.
Entering The Workforce
Walker left school at 16 to work for Bartrams dairy and general produce and export merchants of King St, Melbourne. The time Walker spent with this company educated and inspired him.
His own mother's work and hospitality amongst the Chinese missions of Australia further influenced him. He built ties within the community, and was thus encouraged to make his next business move.
Hong Kong Enterpreneur
In 1903, at the age of 19, Fred went to Hong Kong to establish his own company: Fred Walker and Company, exporters and importers. He began with tinned butter from Australia.
Upon his return home he established himself at 54 William Street, Melbourne.
In 1908, Fred Walker was appointed a second Lieutenant in the Australian Garrison, and rose to the rank of Captain.
Marriage & Family Life
In 1913 he married Mabel Ashton Perrin. They had one daughter Sheilah, who was her father's constant companion.
The family enjoyed Sunday outings to the country where Walker passed on to his daughter his love for Australian flora and fauna, and particular knowledge of birds and trees of the Australian bush.
It was during one of these outings to the Dandenongs in late 1923 that Sheilah Walker chose the brand name Vegemite. A competition had been held to name the new yeast product which is now so much a part of the Australian ethos.