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3 December 2021


Brethren,

The principal objective of the Integrity Unit is to oversee the ethical framework within Freemasons Victoria, to ensure that all members enjoy their Masonic life without fear of being subjected to inappropriate behaviour, or being placed in uncomfortable situations contrary to their wishes. No member should be pressured to do anything other than enjoy and appreciate our teachings.

It is simply about supporting an environment which reinforces the principles of proper and ethical behaviour towards each other, as so amply exemplified in our ritual.

Since its inception in February 2021, the IU has formally met monthly, on the third Wednesday except in March, June, September and December when it will meet the day before.

We are now in the 10th month of operation, and as part of our policy of keeping all members informed, I thought it timely to give you an update on what we have been doing since our last communication and what has been achieved.

Since my last report to you in July, the IU has been busy on a number of matters.

Having sought Expressions of Interest from members, earlier this year, to participate in a Mediators Panel, the IU shortlisted and interviewed a number of the applicants for positions on the panel.  As a result of those interviews, I am delighted to announce that the following Brethren have been appointed to form the Mediators Panel:

  • John Glover;
  • Daniel Jade;
  • Karl Saunders;
  • Clinton Hodgart;
  • Greg White; and
  • Michael Daly

These Brethren come from a range of professional backgrounds with specific experience in mediation and coaching.  Their selection was based on this professional experience and was not influenced in any way by their Masonic service or rank.  They represent a good cross section of the general membership, from a geographic as well as an age and experience point of view.

Mediator Panel members are principally responsible for mediating member disputes referred to them from the Freemasons Victoria Integrity Unit (IU).  The Mediator Panel is also responsible for developing and delivering member education and advice on appropriate member behaviour consistent with the stated principles and tenets of Freemasonry, which is critical in encouraging and maintaining a positive ethical climate within Freemasons Victoria and an environment, which encourages a focus on support for each other.

The panel’s initial responsibilities will be to review and document the dispute resolution processes that they will follow and through appropriate communications, inform all members about these processes, their rights and responsibilities.

I trust you will join with me in congratulating all the members of the new Mediators Panel and support them in their important and meaningful role.

The IU has also appointed two additional members, to support its four inaugural members.  They are:

  • Geoff Lambe;
  • Ron Swift; and
  • Garry Runge.

These new members bring extensive Masonic and professional experience to the IU in the areas of sales and marketing, quality assurance, property management, law enforcement and mediation & counselling.  They will be a most valuable addition to the IU in assisting with its ever-increasing workload.

During the year, the IU has observed a most disturbing trend in the misuse of social media by some members and the unauthorised use of members’ (private) email addresses to disseminate information from sources other than official Freemasons Victoria correspondence, enquiry or broadcast communications.  Notwithstanding the truth and/or accuracy of the information contained in these largely unsolicited communications, they profoundly and fundamentally violate the organisation’s Privacy Policy and the requirements placed on the organisation by law.  We cannot overemphasise the concern we have about this matter.

Some members will contend that their social media activity or their broadcast communications, are justified on the pretext that their voices are not being heard or are being dismissed as disruptive and mischievous.  No one, not the least of which the Integrity Unit, denies every member a right to form an opinion, communicate that opinion and defend that opinion.  Our principal concern is to ensure that members do this in a respectful way, consistent with established processes.

To this end, the Integrity Unit has developed and is in the process of developing a range of documents aimed at educating and providing certainty about what is appropriate behaviour and what are the proper established processes of communication.  These documents take the form of educational/instructive papers, policies and guidance statements.

The documents developed to date are:

  • Description of the Ethical Framework of Freemasons Victoria and inherent in that document a Code of Ethics (as distinct from the current Code of Conduct);
  • A revised Code of Conduct;
  • A Social Media Policy (as distinct from the current Social Media Guidelines);
  • A Guidance Statement on the behavioural expectations of Brethren with grand rank, entitled “Guidance Statement – Grand Lodge Officers”;
  • A Whistleblower policy for use by the organisation; and
  • A Guidance Statement for Brethren who wish to utilise the Whistleblower policy, entitled “Guidance Statement – Speak Up”.

All of these documents have been supplied to the Masonic Governing Council (MGC) or the Change Management Committee, for their consideration.

The IU has also recently recommended to the Grand Master the appointment of a Masonic Ombudsman, whose principal responsibilities will be to provide an independent facility for members:

  • to seek independent advice and responses on a range of issues of interest or concern;
  • to submit ideas, which might improve the structure or management of FMV or Lodges; and
  • to answer or provide information to members and Lodges regarding the Constitution and the Rules and Regulations of Grand Lodge.

The documents and improvement recommendations that the Integrity Unit plan to develop in the near future, include:

  • Development of the District based Olive Branch concept, aimed at member and Lodge education in addressing and resolving member issues before they escalate to disputation;
  • Constitutional change recommendations to:
    • Improve the process and transparency of the dispute resolution system, including the constitutional requirement for mediation before arbitration;
    • Formally require acknowledgment of and compliance with the Code of Conduct as part of the Charges of a Freemason, as part of the membership application process and as part of each Lodges’ Book of Resolutions;
  • Advice on the recent High Court decision on defamation (Fairfax Media Publications Pty. Ltd. V Voller et el) and its impact on the operations and management of FMV social media platforms;
  • Development of “Appointment Agreements” for all Senior Grand Officers (holding portfolio responsibilities), acknowledging those responsibilities and the requirement to comply with established behavioural expectations; and
  • Development of a database of information and facilities to receive, assess and respond to member issues/concerns efficiently and effectively.

The following is summary of member behavioural matters referred to the IU since inception:

ISSUES SUGGESTIONS DISPUTES QUESTIONS OTHER TOTAL
Items b/fwd 0 0 0 0 0
Received 0 8 2 1 # 11
Resolved (0) (5) (2) (1) (8)
Referred to G.Sec. (0) (3) ## (0) (0) (3)
Items c/fwd 0 0 0 0 0

  # Requirement to provide counselling to a Brother
## Resolved by the Grand Secretary.

Might I take this opportunity to thank those members that have supported and continue to take an active interest in the operations of the IU.

In closing can I extend to all Brethren and their families our very best wishes for the festive season and the hope that we all enjoy a peaceful, safe, healthy and fulfilling 2022.

Peter Henshall
Chair – Freemasons Victoria Integrity Unit

Click here to visit the Integrity Unit webpage.

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