Discovery of Australia
island continent of Australia was a figment of the European imagination from the
times of antiquity, a consequence of the artistic license of mapmakers who
supposed that an unknown southern continent was needed to counterbalance the
landmasses of the Northern Hemisphere. From
1606 that land hitherto depicted on early maps as "Terra Australis
Incognita" slowly evolved from the fantastic into a still-strange reality
as a result of the discoveries of traders, navigators and natural scientists.
the 1600’s and early 1700’s portions of the arid and desolate coast of the
western third of Australia were mapped. Ships of the Dutch East Indies Company
occasionally veered off course during the voyage to the Spice Islands onto the
reefs and shores of a land they called "New Holland". In 1770 the
English navigator James Cook (who had served in the British Navy in North
American waters during the wars against the French around 1760) explored the
fertile East Coast of Australia which he named “New South Wales”. Sir Joseph
Banks, a wealthy young man who sponsored his own attendance on Cook's expedition
as well as that of several scientists, was one of the first Freemasons to set
foot on the continent of Australia. He
later became President of the Royal Society of London.
of the settlements of North America had been a useful dumping ground for the
unwanted petty criminals of Great Britain but after the American War of
Independence the British had to find a new place for their convicts. They
intended to establish a penal settlement at Botany Bay in eastern Australia but
this site proving unsuitable, the first settlement began a few miles to the
north at Port Jackson on 26 January 1788. The settlement grew to become the city
first four Governors and Captains-in-Chief of the new penal settlement were
naval officers. The last of these was the short-fused Captain William Bligh of
HMS Bounty fame. He was deposed as Governor of New South Wales as a consequence
of another mutiny, this time by military troops stationed in the colony.
British Government then sent out a military Governor with his own troops. He was
Maj.-General Lachlan Macquarie. Macquarie encouraged the development of the
colony to such an extent that he became known as the "Father of
Australia". A Freemason, he was noted for his tolerance and often
criticised for his policy of rehabilitating emancipated convicts.
Freemasonry in Australia [i]
had tentative beginnings in Australia. In the first 20 years from 1788 the
authorities in charge of the penal colony were very suspicious of unauthorised
meetings, particularly those held in private. Their caution was justified as the
Australian penal settlements were the destination not only of petty criminals,
but also of political prisoners who were transported from Ireland, England,
Scotland, Canada, the West Indies and other British colonies. This period saw
revolution in France and unrest elsewhere. Concerns in Britain about threats to
the established order led to the Unlawful Societies Act of 1799, which governed
the activities of Freemasonry in Britain until repeal in 1967.
such an atmosphere it is not surprising that the authorities refused requests to
form a Lodge in Sydney during the first decade of the 1800’s. In 1802 there
were reports of Masonic meetings held on board several English ships at anchor
in Sydney Harbour. On 14 May 1803 a meeting of Masonic brethren was held in
Sydney, attended by sailors, settlers and an Irish convict named Sir Henry
Browne Hayes. All present were arrested when the meeting was interrupted by the
military. A week earlier Sir Henry had written to London complaining that he had
been forbidden to hold a Lodge and preside at initiations, despite being in
possession of a Warrant. Later that month an Order was published forbidding
Masonic meetings without the Governor's express permission. In a dispatch dated
21 August 1804 the Governor reported that "every
soldier and other person would have been made a Freemason, had not the most
decided means been taken to prevent it".
Governor's orders, which had the object of suppressing all Masonic activities in
Sydney, were not enforced elsewhere in his jurisdiction. There is fragmentary
evidence of an unwarranted St John’s Lodge[ii]
not only working but in possession of a building and land on the island of
Norfolk Island in the first decade of the 1800’s. That island was intended for
the worst offenders, being isolated and situated in the SW Pacific hundreds of
miles north east of Sydney.
August 1801 one George Hales, commander of an American whaling ship named the
"General Boyd", was brought ashore on Norfolk Island after becoming
ill, dying on 16 August. Bro. Hales had been made a Mason on 24 December 1789 in
the Dundee Arms Lodge No. 9, which met in Wapping, London. His tombstone[iii]
on Norfolk Island bears Masonic symbols including square and compasses above an
open book, between two pillars that are surmounted by an arch. It is moving to
see this surviving evidence of the care of local Freemasons for a fellow Mason
who died in a tiny isolated settlement amongst strangers so far from his home
more than 200 years ago.
French were exploring parts of Australia and the South Pacific in the years
around 1800, perhaps with a view to ousting the British from Australia before
they had become well established. This was the era of Napoleon, when the
population of Sydney was less than 10,000. A Masonic meeting termed a
“Triangle” was held aboard a French expeditionary ship in Sydney Harbor on
17 September 1802. A candidate was initiated. Australia’s earliest surviving
stems from this meeting. A certificate was created for the new member, Captain
Anthony Fenn Kemp (1773-1868).
1814 the British 46th Foot Regiment arrived to staff the military garrison at
Sydney. This Regiment had a Lodge attached to it, holding a travelling Warrant
No. 227 from the Grand Lodge of Ireland. Earlier this Lodge had been in North
America during the War of Independence. Apparently the lodge lost the chest
containing its regalia and Masonic furniture. The chest was returned when their
American opponents discovered its contents. During 42 months military service in
Australia the Lodge initiated several candidates. Members participated in a
during the construction of a private home.
military Masonic Lodges were attached to later British regiments. Additional
settlers became Masons. The first civilian Lodge was formed in 1820 after
obtaining a Warrant from the Grand Lodge of Ireland. During the next decade two
more lodges formed in Sydney, and one in Hobart on the island of Tasmania to the
south of the Australian mainland.
settlements were formed in Melbourne and Adelaide in the 1830’s. It was not
long before a lodge was formed in Melbourne. The Warrant was carried by
horseback rider on an overland journey of about 700 miles from Sydney.
the case of South Australia, established by and for free settlers according to
the Wakefield theory of colonisation, Freemasonry was included in plans for the
new colony. In 1834 the South Australian Lodge of Friendship was formed in
England for prospective settlers. They did not sail from England to South
Australia until 1836. As intended the Lodge transferred to the new settlement of
Adelaide. No suitable place was available in which brethren could meet until
after the construction of a tavern in 1838, two years after the first members
the 1840's Freemasonry no longer met with disapproval from the local
authorities. Rather it was seen as an institution tending to promote good order
in society. In South Australia several early Governors were members while in
Western Australia the Governor had a leading role in the establishment of the
first lodge in Perth.
the following 45 years more lodges were formed in many parts of settled
Australia as the population expanded, holding allegiance to the Grand Lodges of
Ireland, England and Scotland.
to Self Government
granted self-government to the various colonies of Australia from the 1850’s,
shortly after the discovery of gold in 1851. At this time correspondence with
Masonic authorities in Britain could take many months (and occasionally several
years). From the 1840’s onwards a limited form of Masonic self-government
developed with the establishment of Provincial or District Grand Lodges under
the three Grand Lodges of the British Isles (England, Ireland and Scotland).
Freemasonry was able to expand more easily as local Masonic authorities had the
ability to accede more quickly to requests for lodges in new locations. The
District Grand Lodge of Queensland Scottish Constitution even spread its wings
so far as to oversee the formation of a lodge in Hawaii[vi].
these measures, local dissatisfaction developed because the “home” Grand
Lodges in the British Isles were perceived as being insufficiently responsive to
local needs. On occasion there were serious disputes between brethren and
certain District or Provincial Grand Masters, who were not answerable to local
brethren but were appointed by and responsible to the Masonic authorities in
However, attempts at forming independent Grand Lodges in the colonies of
Victoria and New South Wales proved fruitless, as the support of a majority of
the Local District Grand Officers was not forthcoming in either case[viii].
South Australia there was a crucial difference in that a majority of District
Grand Officers became alienated from the District Grand Master of the English
Constitution, leading them to support moves towards a local Grand Lodge. In July
1883 a meeting of 123 local Freemasons from the English, Irish and Scottish
Constitutions decided to form a Masonic Union. They pledged themselves to aid in
the formation of a Grand Lodge. The members of the Masonic Union succeeded in
creating an atmosphere of trust, fraternal harmony and lack of jealousy, quickly
obtaining the wide support of local Freemasons. Crucially these included the
vast majority of leading and senior members and not least the District Grand
Master of the Scottish Constitution who resigned his position in order to
support the move in clear conscience. A Convention of Delegates from 24 Lodges
voted in March 1884 to found a Grand Lodge of South Australia. After this
decision had been well supported at meetings of 30 lodges a further Convention
of Lodge Delegates met on 16 April 1884 and established the new Grand Lodge
which convened the same day to elect Officers. The Chief Justice of the colony,
Bro. the Hon. SJ Way, was elected Grand Master. Being a Master Mason, he then
received the Past Master's Degree in a Board of Installed Masters and was duly
installed as inaugural Grand Master the following day, being the leading South
Australian Freemason until his death in 1916[ix].
fledgling Grand Lodge was comprised of 30 lodges with a membership of 2,064,
drawn from a male population of 163,262, giving 137 Masons per 10,000 males in
South Australia. Recognition was sought from other Grand Lodges, the first to
approve being those of Ohio, Delaware and of Colon and Cuba by January 1885,
followed in April 1885 by Utah. In July 1885 notice was received that England
had agreed to recognition. In 1888 the Grand Master of England, MW Bro. HRH the
Prince of Wales became Patron of the new Grand Lodge. His acceptance of this
position was considered the final seal of approval by the colonial Masons of
Lodges formed successfully in most of the other colonies during the next 20
years, while agreement to form the United Grand Lodge of Queensland was reached
by 1921. There are now six Grand
Lodges in Australia and one in New Zealand[xi].
A number of lodges have retained allegiance to their parent Grand Lodges of
England, Ireland and Scotland.
to Masonic independence were mirrored in the various Australian colonies at
large. Freemasons were involved in the many discussions and national conventions
leading to a national Constitution by which the people of the Australian
colonies federated peacefully to form the nation state of the Commonwealth of
Australia in 1901.
creation of a national government was not copied in Freemasonry. There were
moves to establish a uniform ritual for Australia in the years around 1900, but
this proposal never gained approval. Each Masonic jurisdiction has its own
approved version of the ritual, its own way of setting out the furniture and
furnishings in the Lodge room, and its own customs. In general each ritual is
based on what is known as the English Emulation working, which originated in
London some years after the Union of the English Ancients and Moderns Grand
Lodges in 1813 and gained increasing popularity from the 1860's.
meetings and conferences of Grand Masters of the seven Grand Lodges of Australia
and New Zealand have been held in the past forty years as travel became easier
and cheaper. There has never been any move to establish a National Grand Lodge.
the early 1990's Masonic researchers from each of the seven Grand Lodges have
held regular meetings under the name of the Australian and New Zealand Masonic
Research Council (ANZMRC). This body has been formally constituted with Masonic
research lodges and bodies as members. By virtue of its membership crossing
jurisdictional boundaries ANZMRC has no official standing with the various Grand
Lodges. Associate members include lodges and research bodies in Africa, Europe,
North America and the Caribbean. ANZMRC arranges research conferences and
organises lecture tours. It publishes a magazine, proceedings and books. The
website is at www.anzmrc.org
are six sovereign Grand Lodges in Australia and one in New Zealand.
Australian State has a Grand Lodge, and two of these cover additional
territories of Australia. The United Grand Lodge of Queensland has some lodges
in the nation of Papua New Guinea. One lodge in Australia remains under the
Grand Lodge of Ireland, several lodges in three states have remained under the
United Grand Lodge of England, while there are 15 lodges in Western Australia
under the Grand Lodge of Scotland, arranged in two District Grand Lodges.
New Zealand there is the Grand Lodge of New Zealand (formed 1890) with about 330
lodges, including 10 research lodges. There remain 37 lodges in two District
Grand lodges under the United Grand Lodge of England, 4 lodges in a Provincial
Grand Lodge under the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and 11 lodges in two District
Grand Lodges under the Grand Lodge of Scotland.
encourages its members to practice charity. In each jurisdiction Freemasons
engage in extensive charitable efforts at various levels. These tend to be
focussed at the local level with support often offered to local hospitals and
schools. Larger projects such as aged care facilities, retirement villages,
hospitals and children's homes are coordinated and organised at Grand Lodge
level, but in recent decades some of these endeavours have reduced or closed as
a result of changes in society and increasing involvement of governments in
social welfare. More recently there has been increasing emphasis on supporting
high profile charitable activities that it is intended will bring Freemasonry
into public notice.
State of Freemasonry in South Australia
Australian Masonic jurisdiction has its own special characteristics and local
problems, but there are aspects that are shared and common to all.
The remainder of this paper will focus on the Masonic jurisdiction of
South Australia and Northern Territory.
in Freemasonry grew steadily from early beginnings, with fluctuations in
membership during times of economic distress, most noticeably in the 1890’s
and the 1930’s. There were large increases in membership following each of the
World Wars. Membership in each jurisdiction peaked in the 1960’s, since when
there has been a steady decline.
in the Masonic jurisdiction of South Australia and Northern Territory reached
27,877 in 205 active lodges in 1961, when the male population of South Australia
was 517,000. However, a hint of declining popularity of Freemasonry had emerged
earlier when a peak of 584 Freemasons per 10,000 of male population was reached
during the years 1954 and 1955. Despite the fall in numbers of Freemasons after
1961 new lodges continued to be formed, peaking at 219 active lodges in 1979, by
which time there were 18,961 Freemasons in a male population of 708,500, or
about 277 Masons per 10,000 males.
reasons have been canvassed for the declining popularity of membership,
including the advent of television and a much greater range of choice in leisure
activities. Other social factors have had an impact on Freemasonry, including
changes in the expectations and status of women, increasing demands on the spare
time of men and women from employers and families, as well as alterations in the
way that men and women perceive their place and role in society.
Freemasonry is not alone in its predicament in Australia or elsewhere in
the western world. Falling membership and participation has been noted by almost
all community organisations.
the time of founding of the Grand Lodge of South Australia in 1884 there were 30
lodges and 2064 Freemasons. Now there are 119 lodges and 4,319 Freemasons[xii].
50% of the present membership is aged 70 years or older.
A continuing decline in membership is expected. In recent years there
have been encouraging signs of new members being gained by lodges located in the
outer suburban districts of Adelaide[xiii].
Strenuous efforts have been made to promote Freemasonry. A Masonic Foundation
has been established to better manage and coordinate charitable activities, and
to assist in promoting the good name of Freemasonry before the general public.
The leadership of Grand Lodge has adopted a more professional approach to
management, membership care, recruitment and retention. Courses in Masonic
education and leadership have been provided. The leadership has sought to
involve more members in the decision-making process. The Grand Lodge has
provided programs and suggestions for lodges to apply in care, education,
retention and recruitment of members. These measures have not always been
adopted successfully or even attempted by some individual lodges. Considerable
apathy prevails amongst the general membership. Australians are generally noted
for their distrust of "high-fliers" or "tall poppies" in
many fields. Unfortunately some Freemasons retain this attitude in Masonic
affairs, displaying a measure of cynicism or distrust towards “Grand Lodge”,
even though the membership of Grand Lodge now includes all Master Masons and
regard to membership, great variation exists between lodges, some having fewer
than 20 members and others up to 100 members.
Lodge mergers and amalgamations have occurred in metropolitan and some
country areas. There have also been lodge closures, more frequently in
relatively sparsely populated country areas. Further closures are expected in
the future. A "Holding Lodge" has been established for unattached
members. The Grand Lodge has considered the options of a “travelling
warrant” and of holding "occasional lodges" to meet the needs of
members in certain areas.
a response to changes in society new lodges have been created to cater for the
interests of different ethnic groups and new needs of existing and potential
members. Different rituals have been approved in the case of certain new lodges.
Several have worked a Scottish ritual, one a German (Schroeder) ritual
(translated into English), and one lodge works the English “Calver” ritual.
One lodge has mainly Italian Australians in its membership, while others have
attracted Greek Australians or Lebanese Australians. Such differences are not
always fully appreciated by the wider membership, but such lodges do assist in
helping to make Australian society as well as Freemasonry more inclusive.
in Australia at first met in public houses and taverns. They ceased to meet in
non-Masonic premises in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s, when most lodges
moved to purpose-built Masonic buildings. The majority of lodges start their
meetings at 7.30pm followed by a light supper around 9.45pm. Recently dining
lodges have been created to cater for the needs of business and professional
men, meeting at 6pm in club premises, concluding by 8pm when they sit down to a
catered meal of two or three courses.
"festive board" after-proceedings that follow nearly all lodge
meetings are generally conducted with those attending seated at tables arranged
in U configuration, the Master at the top and a Warden at the end of each arm.
Such occasions are not tyled, but the seating arrangements resemble those of
"Table Lodges" in the United States. After the main meal the
formalities commence. In all lodges there follows a series of toasts, in the
following order - the Head of State (“The Queen and the Craft”), the Grand
Lodge, the Candidate, and visiting brethren.
The proceedings conclude with the Tyler’s Toast. Most lodges permit the
consumption of alcoholic beverages but some are temperance by tradition.
codes have been modified in recent years. As Australian summers tend to be hot
brethren are now permitted to attend without their coats. Dining lodges require
members to wear business suits. Traditional evening lodges require formal
clothing of dinner jacket and black bow tie. Daylight lodges that tend to cater
for elderly brethren usually permit less formal attire – jacket and tie. They
usually lunch after a mid morning meeting. Unlike other parts of the world, a
hat does not form part of the dress of the Master of the Lodge.
Orders and Degrees
Grand Lodges acknowledge the existence of the Royal Arch Chapter and of the Mark
Master Masons degree. These organisations have their own governing bodies.
Several jurisdictions have set up a Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons.
Grand Lodge of Mark Master Masons of South Australia and Northern Territory has
37 lodges with about 1,000 members. The Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch
Masons of South Australia and Northern Territory has about 900 members in 33
Orders are not officially “recognised” or acknowledged by the Grand Lodges.
Order known in USA as the Scottish Rite is termed the Ancient and Accepted Rite
or "Rose Croix" in Australia; in Australia candidates are required to
profess Trinitarian Christianity. This body has about 700 members in South
Australia. Candidates advance to the 18th Degree on the evening of
joining. Following this they are expected to pass through the various offices to
Most Wise Sovereign, before being considered for advancement to the 30th
Degree. The Australian Rite
has about 7000 members of whom about 3000 hold the 30th Degree or
above and some 4000 hold the 18th Degree.
are 237 members of the Masonic Knight Templars in South Australia. Trinitarian
Christian belief is required. The Malta Degree is generally worked once a year.
Members wear special regalia, comprising a white tunic with a red cross on the
front over their tuxedos, with a white cape, belt, sword, red velvet cap and
jewels. One Preceptory (Percy)
works the Baldwyn Rite[xiv],
the sole such Preceptory outside Bristol, England.
Orders with small membership numbers include the Royal Order of Scotland, the
Allied Masonic Degrees, Royal Ark Mariners, Red Cross of Constantine, Order of
the Secret Monitor, Royal and Select Masters, Worshipful Society of Free Masons,
Knight Templar Priests, and the Masonic Rosicrucians.
non-recognised forms of Freemasonry are found in Australia. They include
Co-Masonry (with close ties to the Theosophists), the Grand Orient of France,
Memphis and Misraim, and the Order of Women Freemasons. Adoptive bodies such as
Order of the Eastern Star, Amaranth and DeMolay have small memberships.
to Freemasonry in Australia have changed over time, with initial official
disapproval followed by acceptance, later flowering into official support.
Freemasonry grew strong with these changes in official attitudes. In the more
recent past there has been indifference towards Freemasonry on the part of many
in the professions and business that formerly would have sought membership. Such
indifference has developed at the same time as declining involvement in most
churches, civic life and community organisations. It is said that history moves
in cycles. Recent public concerns about a perceived decline in ethical standards
in business, the professions and political life may see the wheel turn for
Freemasonry, which traditionally has sought to inculcate ethical behaviour and
the practice of moral and social virtues.
is a social organisation that attracts a wide variety of people as members. It
does not fulfil its promise to all that seek to join. An understanding of
factors that have influenced Freemasonry's evolution in Australia, coupled with
an appreciation as to how participation in fraternal activities satisfies its
members, may help in determining how the Order can better meet the needs of
present and future Australians. Such analysis may have benefits beyond
For a detailed chronology of Freemasonry in the South West Pacific up to 1848
Linford, R., "The first Australian stationary Masonic Lodge? - Norfolk
Island and New South Wales [Australia]", in Transactions of the Victorian Lodge of Research for 1994,
'Examining Freemasonry'; also see
Dalkin, R.Nixon, 'Colonial Era Cemetery of Norfolk Island'. Sydney, Pacific
Publications (Australia) Pty.Ltd., 1974.
Sharp, Allan McL.,"Australia's Oldest Extant Masonic Document, a factual
interpretation", in 'Ars Quatuor Coronatorum', Vol. 104, 1991, pp.150-165.
Described in "Lachlan Macquarie - His Life, Adventures and Times", by
Ellis, MH (1952, second edition, revised), Angus and Robertson, Sydney,
Lodge Pacific No. 822 Scottish
Constitution, which on transferring to the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of
California in 1910 was renamed Honolulu
Lodge No. 409.
see Glover, Charles RJ, "A History of First Fifty Years of Freemasonry in
South Australia 1834-1884", Adelaide 1916, for a detailed account of
several occasions of disharmony in the District Grand Lodge of South Australia,
Mander-Jones, E, "A History of Craft Masonry in South Australia
1884-1934", Adelaide 1976, pp. 13-14
Martin, AW et al, "Freemasonry in Australia and New Zealand", Adelaide
1999, pp. 29-37
as at 31 December 2005 there were 3793 members
the population of greater metropolitan Adelaide is 1.2 million out of total
state population for South Australia of 1.5 million. Another 200,000 or so live
in the Northern Territory. Australia's
population recently reached 20 million.
for further information see