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12 March 2024

Response to ‘The Sunday Age' Story

A Sunday Age story about Freemasons Victoria is inaccurate, one-sided, and focuses on the grievances of a sad small group of men who were expelled by their peers. The story neglects to record that the electronic vote to expel them was made by secret ballot, open to every Victorian Freemason. In almost all cases, more than 80 per cent of those voting, elected to expel each of these people.

1. Relatively junior journalist, Charlotte Grieve based her weekend ‘exclusive' report in The Sunday Age, largely on interviews with Barry Minster (expelled), Graham Wallace (expelled), Stephen Duns (expelled), Barry Hodder (suspended), Don Paterson (resigned) and Russell Summers (resigned), as well as several others who insisted on anonymity. A number of suspended/expelled members declined to be interviewed by Ms Grieve, and in one case, one member told the journalist that her information was incorrect. Ms Grieve chose not to include the remarks of the many thousands of Freemasons in our organisation.


2. It is noted that Ms Grieve was a respondent in a Federal Court of Australia case in which Justice Jackman determined that seven defamatory imputations were made against Peter David Schiff. It is reported that in late November last year, Justice Jackman entered judgement of the sum of $550,000 against Ms Grieve, two of her colleagues, the Nine Network and The Age. Ms Grieve, etc., were also ordered to pay costs on an indemnity basis.

3. Ms Grieve went to press at the weekend with her own wild assertion that Freemasons Victoria is “in crisis” and that it was under financial strain. She inferred that the organisation is on a spree of selling properties. None of these contentions are true. A look at our published audited accounts makes it clear that Freemasons Victoria is in an extremely healthy financial position. Currently, Freemasons Victoria has two disused vacant properties to go on the market: Nagambie and Rushworth. They have been vacant for a number of years. Another vacant property, the St Arnaud building, is programmed for sale later this year. Proceeds will go to the Freemasons Victoria Building Fund, and will be applied in the first instance for refurbishment and upgrading of Masonic properties in the relevant district.

4. Ms Grieve's Sunday Age ‘exclusive' story started with the factually incorrect claim that a former Grand Master had been expelled by member vote. Ms Greive had started her midweek front-page story, also stamped ‘exclusive', with the factually incorrect claim that a former member had held the rank of Mark Mason “which is the third level of membership of the secret fraternity”.

5. Ms Grieve's story wrongly claimed that the Pakenham Masonic Lodge is “owned by an independent association”. All Freemasons properties in Victoria are held in trust for all members. The purported Chair of the entity that is trustee for the Pakenham property, held on behalf of all Freemasons, has refused to hand over its books of account to Freemasons Victoria for verification. One can only ask what it is that he might be wanting to hide. That person, who is suspended from Freemasonry, has given misleading media interviews, and his call to radio station 3AW last week was filled with cringeworthy embarrassing errors. As well as wildly incorrect statistics, at one stage he claimed the Hindu faith's Bhagavad Gita was the holy book for Islam. LISTEN HERE to the interview. The ham-fisted interview portrayed Freemasons as sadly lacking in intelligence. That person claims to have spent $60,000 on legal expenses. Who authorised him to spend that? Whose money has he spent?

6. Ms Grieve's story featured quotes and a posed photograph of ex-member Barry Minster. As recently as last Wednesday, Mr Minster gave a written assurance to a friend, saying: “I do not make public comments on my former membership of FMV.” Mr Minster's interview and photo-shoot had already taken place. In his interview, Mr Minster points the finger at senior Freemasons and the organisation. Mr Minster also acknowledges in the story that he was one of the first to invest in a $1.4 million apartment at the Eastbourne development. This is the same Mr Minster who, in an outrageous breach of privacy, took and used a database of Freemasons Victoria members without authority, after leaving the organisation. He resigned, thereby avoiding Complaints Committee matters brought against him.


7. Ms Grieve's story features ex-member Stephen Duns, whose quotes neglect to disclose that he billed Freemasons Victoria for advice that he says was rejected. Mr Duns's invoices were substantial.

8.  Ms Grieve's story quotes member Kent Henderson, who declined to be interviewed by her. Instead Ms Grieve quotes from a document of his from some years ago. The story mentions an historic complaint to Police, but Ms Grieve's story conveniently omits to mention that his complaint was withdrawn, and an unreserved apology issued. Ms Grieve was fully briefed on all these matters, but she did not find space for the balance required by the Journalists' Code of Ethics.

9. Ms Grieve deliberately chose not to list the good Masonic works and the annual Masonic charitable giving of up to $3 million in Victoria, as well as donations in cash and kind by Lodge members. Ms Grieve elected not to acknowledge receipt of a raft of documents provided by Freemasons Victoria, after an interview of more than 100 minutes, in which all questions were answered openly. An audio recording was made of the interview, with the agreement of both parties.

10. Ms Grieve's story deliberately chose not to include the fact that the dis-establishment of the Board of General Purposes was ratified by a vote of more than 1,800 members.  

11. Ms Grieve started both stories with the worn-out cliché that Freemasonry is a secretive organisation. So secret that it has multiple listings in the White Pages, has its own website, has a large social media presence, and that every one of its buildings has prominent signage.

The Sunday Age has published a disappointing piece of shoddy one-sided journalism, full of inaccuracies, and wild claims from people with an axe to grind. It is no wonder that The Sunday Age, which once printed more than 220,000 copies, now prints about 60,000 copies. Everyone can see the bundles of unsold copies every week.

Following the extensive interview, Freemasons Victoria issued a written invitation for Ms Grieve to attend an Open Investiture where she could speak openly with anyone of her choosing, the Good Friday Appeal sausage sizzle, and/or our Sleep At The ‘G effort. This is an opportunity for Ms Grieve and her colleagues to speak first-hand with the legion of Freemasons who “bring happiness to others”. It is no surprise that The Sunday Age representative has not even had the courtesy to respond. Sadly, accuracy and representing all sides of the story appears not to be on the newspaper's agenda.



MWBro. Anthony John Bucca