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6 March 2024

Freemasonry is an honourable centuries-old fraternity that stands for good. We have millions of fellow Brothers around the globe who likewise actively work to make this world a better place.

Freemasons Victoria (the United Grand of Lodge of Victoria) is an organisation of approximately 6,800 members, and it aims for the very highest standards of conduct from every one of its members. We practise a culture of continuous improvement. Each of our members, upon their entry to our Brotherhood, swears to uphold the highest principles of behaviour. Our members make numerous further personal obligations about their own best conduct as they progress through their Masonic lives.

Unexpectedly, I came into the role of Acting Grand Master at 5pm on Thursday, 4 August, 2022, when the Immediate Past Grand Master chose to instantly stand aside from the top position. My official installation as Grand Master took place on Saturday, 25 March, 2023. I willingly accepted total responsibility for every one of my actions and decisions in those subsequent 19 months to date. God willing, I will continue to accept these earnest responsibilities until my successor is installed in March-April 2025. Any Grand Master should take full responsibility for their own behaviour in their own term of office. I do.

Freemasons Victoria is a wonderful and great fraternity. Through its Foundation, we freely give more than $2 million annually to needy causes. The members of our 219 Lodges, statewide, generously provide benevolence at the community-level, in cash and in kind. The vast majority of our members work hard to be better citizens, better husbands, better fathers and better grandfathers. The families and friends of our members are warmly welcomed to many of our activities. Every year, numerous members are honoured and recognised by society for their positive participation, usually as volunteers, in wholesome community service, aimed at bettering the lives of others.

Sadly, there are a handful of members in all organisations who stumble, and who do not fulfil their own promises as to best behaviour. For every person on the planet, there are consequences for bad behaviour. In our own organisation, members across Victoria voted late last year to expel 13 people who were assessed by them to have fallen short of our standards. This was not a decision by a Grand Master or by a single person, rather a determination by ballot available to our whole membership. In most instances a majority of more than 80 per cent of those voting, elected to remove these people from our membership list.

A small number of individual suspensions and exclusions have also taken place through our independent Complaints Committee, which chiefly comprises Freemasons who hold senior positions in the legal fraternity, or who are experienced law-keepers. A chain of procedural fairness and natural justice is paramount.  Any member who wishes to appear is entitled to representation. A further process of appeal is available through an independent Complaints Review Committee. By the way, the Grand Master is not involved in any way in these independent processes.

It is an unfortunate human trait that some who stumble in their lives will seek to blame others. Some set out to exact revenge and – misguidedly – seek retribution. Occasionally, these aggrieved individuals – apparently acting with malice – seek to use members of the media as their accessories, to prosecute their case. A number of claims – some of them wildly inaccurate – have recently been supplied to a reporter. Simultaneously, troubled individuals have made defamatory social media posts about some Victorian Freemasons. It seems as though these unsettled people thought that their intemperate outbursts might create fear or embarrassment for their perceived adversaries. Nothing of the sort, it only reinforces a determination to defend our Order.

The business of Freemasons Victoria is exclusively that of its members. We are not a public company, however our books of account are always published for members, in Quarterly Communications and annual reports. Members vote to accept the financial accounts. Every single item of income and expenditure, every transaction on a line-by-line basis, is subject to audit by one of the largest accounting firms in Australia. We have many additional layers of rigorous scrutiny over our finances from our professional staff, the Commercial Council, the Grand Treasurer and  the Finance Committee, which incorporates a Risk and Audit sub-committee. The books of every Lodge are also subject to vote of members at every meeting and annually, and they too are also subject to strict audit. Every financial item – from top to bottom of this organisation – is subject to openness and transparency.

So, in the interests of that transparency, I consented to be interviewed this week at the earliest opportunity by a journalist from The Age newspaper. She had several dozen questions, all of which I have addressed with absolute candour, and a spirit of openness. Unfortunately, some of the questions were based on incorrect and distorted information, supplied to her by a person or people with an axe to grind. It will be matter for the newspaper and the journalist to decide on how much weight, if any, that they give to coloured accusations from people who believe they have scores to settle. Newspaper journalists are bound by a Code of Ethics that requires them to report ALL essential facts; let's hope that they decide to give equal prominence to all the good news Masonic stories. We have invited them to join us at an Open Investiture, our Good Friday Appeal special effort, and to come to see us at work as we “Sleep At The ‘G”. It is only fair that all sides of the story are covered.

We note that the journalist went to press this morning (Wed., 6 March) with a story relating to Matthew Guy, State Liberal politician, and his time as a Freemason in the past. The Age newspaper inaccurately starts its story with: “Documents obtained by The Age show Guy was registered as a Freemasons Victoria member in 2018 in the rank of ‘‘Mark Mason’’, which is the third level of membership of the secret fraternity.”

The newspaper said: “The Age is not suggesting that Guy acted inappropriately in making any planning decisions or that he made those decisions based on any relationship with the Freemasons, only that he may not have made necessary declarations.”

Mr Guy made no planning permit decisions relating to the Freemasons Victoria ‘Eastbourne' development. The decision to issue a planning permit was made by Richard Wynne, State Planning Minister for the Victorian Labor Government, following its election on 29 November 2014, some 10 years ago.

It is not necessary at this time for me to offer a detailed recital of that Q&A with the journalist, but some important points are:

  • In my term as Grand Master, and I am sure the same applies to my predecessors, the finances of Freemasons Victoria are subject to rigorous scrutiny by accounting professionals, the Commercial Council (and the Board of General Purposes previously), our own Finance Committees, skilled auditors, as well as by member vote.
  • We regard our membership levels, having regard to factors which affect all service and charitable organisations, to be in a healthy position, and our recruitment focus on intelligent and committed men particularly in the 35-45 demographic, is bearing fruit and showing positive results.
  • We have managed an extensive property portfolio, always accompanied by acquisitions and dispersals, to best meet the needs of the era of our members. Our ongoing property portfolio plans are under the supervision of an elected Commercial Council, the membership of which includes appointed external (non-Masonic) members. Understandably, plans for specific properties must be on a commercial-in-confidence basis. We do not plan to telegraph our commercial intentions; no sensible organisation would.
  • All Masonic properties are held in trust for the benefit of all Victorian Freemasons. If ever Freemasons Victoria were to disband, our Constitution provides that the assets must go to a like-minded benevolent organisation. No individuals may benefit from their trusteeships or stewardship of Masonic property. Freemasons Victoria does pay commercial fees for expert professional property, accounting and legal advice to best protect the assets of its members.
  • Our assets have grown substantially in recent times due to prudent financial management. Steps have been taken to ensure that the organisation remains financially viable. None of this growth has been at the expense of our charitable endeavours. Our organisation is capable of doing more than one thing at the same time.
  • The matter of a handful of clandestine lodges, and the spurious Grand Lodge of Queensland, has already been well canvassed. We do not recognise them, and neither do any other Australasian jurisdictions. Neither do the Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland. People are free to join those lodges should they wish, but our long-established rules provide that they cannot simultaneously be a member of Freemasons Victoria. It is entirely a matter of their own choosing if they wish to be a part of the smaller group.
  • The re-development of the Dallas Brooks Centre into Eastbourne occurred under the aegis of Past Grand Masters. Those men can speak on their own behalf about the decisions and conduct of their times. Every Freemason in Victoria was offered the opportunity to be a part of the Mirvac redevelopment, and their involvement was decided by ballot.
  • Other questions have been asked about the probity of Past Grand Masters. Again, those questions should rightly be answered directly by each of them. Freemasons Victoria has invited the journalist to ask any questions that they see fit of our Past Grand Masters.
  • A question was asked about an ex-member who confirmed in a letter of apology that he had defamed a number of Freemasons.  Whilst details are confidential, that ex-member has subsequently been making modest monthly payments for a relatively small amount as a token settlement, the total amount of which is being donated to charity. He recognised, as in every aspect of life, every action brings a consequence.
  • The December 2020 findings of The Ethics Centre have been rehashed. The Board of General Purposes at the time voted to dis-establish itself. Ratification of that decision, and the replacement governance structure, was confirmed by subsequent overwhelming member vote. The vote, by 1,800 members, was the highest recorded vote in living memory.

Freemasonry is a great institution. I am proud to lead Freemasons Victoria through an era of reconstruction and renewal. I urge any critic to re-examine their own motives. Our Victorian jurisdiction has 6,800 works-in-progress, every man aiming to be a better person, all focused on helping their fellow human beings. We will not be deflected from our good works by minor sideshows.



MWBro. Anthony John Bucca