Messages from the
MWBro. Keith Murray
7 September 2018: Member Forums
Good morning Brethren,
Firstly, thank you to all the Brethren that have participated in the Member Forums so far. To recap, we have hosted these forums in Wodonga, Warrnambool, Sunshine, Bendigo, Keysborough, Baxter, Traralagon, Ballarat and Bendigo with more to follow.
As we look to the future, we must listen to one another and consider what needs to be done to achieve our strategic plan. One constant that struck me and everyone who attended these forums, was the energy and indeed the hunger to make Freemasonry in Victoria vital and inspiring to belong to. It is interesting for me, to note that some have in the past said that our Fraternity’s capacity to develop and improve is limited and in fact that trying to discuss and encourage new thinking is bound to result in disagreements and disharmony.
If I am any judge of the character of our membership, it is a sense that we are all now firmly of the belief we can work together, everyone, to achieve not just an evolution, but a revolution. We can surely see a way forward to improve how we operate administratively, yet also bring our traditions and indeed, our reason for being Freemasons, much more to the fore.
As you know, these forums were not about bringing forward decisions of the Board, but rather to open discussion, share information and consider our next steps. From these, a newsletter will be prepared with notes from each of the forums and this will form the basis of further discussions. In simple terms, the 4 topics and general responses can be summarised as follows:
Brethren do seem to want a Constitution which is clear, both in language and priorities. That some matters are handled more appropriately/efficiently by our board or at District level.
Generally, there is a preference to change the voting system within The Constitution. Members suggested a voting system of a secret ballot and we should look to have ways of doing this which can better involve the vast majority of our members in any important decision.
Sadly, it was all too common to hear of bad behaviour going unchecked and often some Brethren voting with their feet and leaving our Fraternity, for want of brotherly love being supported. However, there is a growing sense that Lodges need to address this at their level, rather than taking it to the central office. Some believe it would be beneficial for a mediation service to be provided at District levels to resolve some quarrels.
A common theme was a preference for more decision making to be more locally focussed. To achieve this, it will require both improving both the knowledge and leadership skills of Brethren and suitable support from the central office would be required to assist the District Coordinator and his panel.
This is always a sensitive issue with members. The common message was that Brethren do expect to pay towards the operations of our Fraternity but place great reliance on the Board to provide better financial justification and clearer reports. Most believe that it should be one fee, payable by all and that any Brother in need of assistance should be supported by his own Lodge, rather than the organisation granting concessional fees.
There is an expectation that our Board must ensure Freemasonry in Victoria has a sustainable financial model, so we can pass on the organisation to future generations in good financial health.
In providing more and easier to understand information at the Member Forums to our members, some suggestions considered and discussed were:
- Membership fees being set at $130.00 (inc. GST) from 1 July 2019 and thereafter increasing annually by CPI.
- Membership fees being set at $125 (inc. GST) from 1 January 2019, with a further increase of 5% in January 2020, but then the Board put a proposal for consideration in March 2021 for implementation in July 2021.
Having these discussions and being respectful of the processes for our Lodge Treasurers, a possible solution that covers both and the financial requirements would be:
- Membership fee to be payable from 1 July 2019 of $125 (inc. GST)
- Membership fee to be payable from 1 July 2020 of $130 (inc. GST)
- Membership fee to be payable from 1 July 2021 be the amount adjusted for the annual CPI figure from December, in the preceding year, announced at the March Quarterly Communication.
I am very grateful to everyone that has participated thus far in these Member Forums. I believe we are now setting in place a new way forward for the organisation in bringing as many people into the conversation on how we can take the steps of informing our members and making the decisions we need, to improve our organisation and membership.
I look forward to meeting up with as many of you as possible at future Member Forums, where we can work together as one, while we aim to make the world a better place…
Bro. Keith Murray
Brethren, one of the most important issues we face as an organisation is good communication. This is particularly important as we move the organisation forward together; that we share our ideas on how we would like our member experience to be better, our Lodges to be better and yes, our services to the members to be better still. Equally that in coming together on this, we can all be part of the solution.
I firmly believe, we have a renewed purpose in our Craft, and our membership as a whole is excited about the opportunities now opening up, to again put Freemasonry on the map in Victoria. With this in mind, I can advise that whilst we have now had a successful membership forum, at Bayside, Box Hill, Geelong and Traralgon, this is only to be the first of many.
Shortly we will be announcing the date and locations of a further 8 forums in July and August, which will take place around the state. I am very clear that many of these forums must take place in the regions. Equally, we hope to be able to film these so as to get the information and points raised to as many Brethren as possible, for those who cannot attend.
Further details will be provided shortly, but let me assure you that my aim is for any questions or suggestions to be discussed openly and where practical, a response and detail will be provided on the spot. We have nothing to gain from persisting in a them and us mentality. If we are to make our organisation work better for our members then we must all take on our individual responsibility, to help each other, our own Lodge and the Craft in general. That includes everyone; Brethren, we all need to work for the common good of the fraternity as a whole.
There is a great deal of activity happening in Freemasons Victoria at the moment.
We have the June Quarterly Communications coming up, the Leadership program, run in conjunction with Leadership Victoria is progressing, with very positive feedback from participants, and we are about to launch a series of member forums across the state.
Over the past few weeks you will have seen an increase in communications from the Board and there will be more to follow in the weeks leading up to the June Quarterly Communications. It is important that the Board is open and transparent on the need for change.
It is also important that we, as the senior leaders of the Craft in Victoria, provide the necessary support to the Board and to our brothers, and do our best to ensure the future viability of our great fraternity.
June Quarterly Communications – membership fees:
There are a number of key positives regarding the proposed increase in membership fees.
• The increase to $150 is fixed for three years. This provides a degree of certainty for everyone. We will not be going back to the membership to seek further increases until 2021.
• The proposal is that the increase in membership fees is approved by the membership on 20
June, but the new rate will not be applied until 1 January 2019. This gives members and Lodge
Secretaries time to submit and consider applications for concessional rates.
• The concessional fee model proposed should ensure that no member who has difficulty in
paying the increased membership fee is disadvantaged. The expansion of the concessional fee criteria means that any member who holds a Health Care card, or Pensioner Concession card (a card that carries the same status as the Health Care card) will not be required to pay the increased membership fee and will be able to remain at the current level of membership fee: $114.95.
We are also taking steps to ensure that members have an opportunity to discuss any concerns, or ask any questions they may have on the issue of membership fees, and more generally on the state of the Craft, at 4 member forums.
These are being held at Bayside, Traralgon, Box Hill and Geelong on Thursday 31 May, from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm. They are an opportunity for us, as senior leaders of the Craft, and the Board, to have open and honest dialogue with the membership. If you have not already registered your interest in attending one of these forums I would encourage you to do so. Contact Julia Edwards on 03 9411 0103 or email@example.com and she will be happy to assist you with registration.
The feedback we get from these sessions will ensure that the Board understands the views of the membership and, similarly, the membership have an opportunity to increase their understanding of the changes that we are making and of the outlook for the fraternity. We will be holding more of these forums, in a range of locations, later in the year.
Joint Orders – Combined operations:
As you are aware the Craft, the Chapter, and the Mark signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) earlier this month. This MoU is an agreement between the three Orders to explore opportunities for improving the operations of the three Orders.
By combining the staff and functions from the three Orders we will reduce duplication, achieve
synergies and deliver cost savings. Whilst the independence of the Boards, and the Masonic rights and privileges of the three Orders will remain unchanged, this move is a positive step towards bringing the business and administrative functions of the three Orders closer together, and will deliver greater unity between the Craft, the Chapter, and the Mark.
Lodges and Membership:
Brethren, I am sure you will join me in celebrating the continued renewal and growth of our great fraternity.
Recently we have commenced a number of new Lodges; The Earl of Dunmore, Concordia in southeast Gippsland, Academic, and Virtual. This is evidence of our renewed vigour. Our new member numbers also look exciting.
We have over 260 active applications currently being processed and the work we undertook last year to better understand how to attract new members via our web portals and social media is returning dividends. Just the other day we forwarded 9 new applicants to Districts in one day! Whilst this is good news for the fraternity it is imperative that we all play an active role in welcoming new members and ensure that we provide support and leadership to our District Coordinators and Lodges so that we are in the best position to provide a life-long experience for these new Masons.
Bro. Keith Murray
It is time we all considered the importance of harmony
within our Lodges. An organisation's strength comes from its members being in
harmony and this is especially applicable within the Craft. It is apparent that
some Lodges are not promoting harmony amongst their Brethren, as much as we
would all like. There is also a widely held view that some members seem to
bathe in self-satisfaction from engaging in divisive debates in various forums.
In our ceremonies and practices, we are actively encouraged
not to engage in political discussion. For some, they believe this is limited
to not talking about Liberal vs Labor, Pauline Hanson and the tax system.
However, this is not the complete message contained in these important lessons.
Unfortunately, we have all seen some Brethren playing the game of
organisational politics. This is particularly evident when individuals seek to
either squash an idea they disagree with, or they choose to raise an argument
to promote their own individual preferences, at the expense of listening to and
learning from others.
Often, the social media platform becomes a preferred medium
to voice an opinion regarding an individual or topic. Some members are
determined to be negative and seek to find the slightest fault in any
initiative, when it is clear that even a slight shift would benefit the
membership and the Lodge. This then becomes a trend and we see a negative flow
on social media because a single member cannot accept what could benefit the
As I have travelled around our state visiting many Lodges,
it occurred to me that our country Lodges can be an example of how we can all
work together to foster harmony. These Lodges have a strong bond and a
heightened sense of community, whereby members of nearby Lodges attend in
support of each other, fill in offices, deliver charges, support fundraising
and social events and at the end of the night, everybody goes home with a smile
on their face. Generally, Lodges do not carry large bank balances and what they
do have is often used to support members in need and their local community. In
essence, the Lodge is united while fostering harmony.
Unfortunately, we appear to have some members who enjoy
becoming embroiled in the negative chatter on Facebook and who forget the very
basic principles of Freemasonry. Would we honestly expect good men to join and
retain their membership when they are exposed to negativity and nit-picking on
any initiative proposed by our Board? How can we progress as an organisation
when some of our Brethren refuse to move forward and would rather remain
stagnant, or go backward, than experience even the slightest change?
Victorian Freemasonry is now moving forward, and instead of
managing the decline, we are investing in our future and in doing so we aim to
attract many good men who are looking for a ‘third place’. To be part of a
fraternity that promotes self-development and the value of the common good is
truly special, rather than becoming intertwined and focusing on the importance
of individuals and self-absorption. Therefore, this makes it even more
important to reassess our individual behaviour and promote harmony within our
Lodges where the activity and energy is cohesive, progressive and welcoming. We
must always remember that everyone in our Lodges has pledged themselves to work
together for the good of society.
Brethren, we must avoid resting on our laurels of past
achievements and petty arguments, because in doing so, we fail to move forward.
Rather, let us work in harmony together to build our Lodges into places where
everyone is pulling the weight together in union. Let our Lodges be a welcoming
place for those struggling with time or money who require support from their
fellow Brethren, where we consign politicking to the history of the
organisation and build confidence to cater for inclusiveness.
I encourage everyone to consider the words of Lao Tzu, the
founder of Taoism.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words
Watch your words, for they become actions
Watch your actions for they become habits
Watch your habits, for they become character
Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.
Our charges inherently encourage us to be exemplary in our
words, thoughts and deeds and by this we can become exemplary in our character.
By being of good character we can help each other and by doing so, we can make
the world a better place, one man at a time.
As we move into the holiest period of the year, let us take some time to reflect upon the lives of our loved ones, and come together working toward being more accepting of all faiths.
On Friday 30 March, many Brethren will be showing their support for the Good Friday Appeal through the longstanding fundraising efforts led by our Taskforce, in conjunction with Uncle Bobs. Across the state, hundreds of good men (and their families) will be out in force for this worthy cause.
The United Grand Lodge of Victoria has an unrivalled reputation for ceremonial excellence and the 2018 Grand Lodge Ceremonial Team had their “graduation” at Creswick last weekend.
I and the Grand Director of Ceremonies designate, WBro. Barry Dyce were very impressed with the standard they have already achieved after 14 weeks of training.
The Team are all too aware of the expectations of all Brethren, not only on their ceremonial standard, in addition to as incoming Grand Master I have equally high expectations that they will individually be ambassadors for Freemasons Victoria. I therefore expect they will be prominent and available in our Lodges and be friendly and courteous to all.
If any of you have driven along Albert Street or Victoria Parade, East Melbourne you will doubtlessly have seen the amazing transformation taking place to create our new Melbourne headquarters and also The Eastbourne residential building.
The construction is on schedule and all being well we will take handover of the Masonic building in June 2019 and we are focusing our attention on the internal fit-out of our space.
I recently inspected the construction site and the structure and flooring of our area has already been built. I am sure we are all excited at the prospect of returning “home” to East Melbourne and it is very soon becoming a reality. Please click for the time-lapse film video of the process.
On behalf of Fiona and myself, I would like to extend our sincere thanks and appreciation for the overwhelming show of support for the upcoming Grand Installation.
We are both humbled and honoured to be able to share this historic gathering of Brethren and guests from across Victoria and also from across the seas.
This Masonic Celebration has attracted unprecedented numbers and is a significant show of the tangible unity we all believe is so important for the Craft.
As you would be aware, registrations for the Grand Installation closed on Wednesday 17 January and members were invited to contact the office to be placed on a wait list. The wait list is now full and members will be contacted should any seats become unexpectedly available.
It is important to note that ENTRY WILL ONLY BE GRANTED TO GUESTS WHO PRESENT THEIR TICKETS AT THE DOOR to the events.
Once again, I offer our sincere appreciation for the outpouring of support. We are looking forward to what will no doubt be a memorable weekend.
7 September 2018: Grand Rank
In January 2011 a policy was released by the then Grand Master, MWBro. Vaughan Werner, following advice from an advisory panel, for the conferrals and promotions in Grand Rank. In announcing this policy it is stated,
‘The point is strongly made that there will be no right or entitlement for Grand Rank. It will be awarded by the Grand Master, based solely on merit. The intent of this policy is to move towards and maintain a proportion of Grand Officers of ten percent of the membership.’
As it stands, we have a total membership of 8507 Brethren and of these, we have 2273, or approximately 27% of our members who currently hold Grand Rank. So, on this basis, we are approaching a position where almost three times as many members hold Grand Rank, much more than what was envisaged in 2011. Equally, the issue of promotions and who believes it is their ‘turn’ to receive a promotion has a tendency to create disharmony. Often, a Brother feels that he should have been considered over somebody else, or because someone thinks they are entitled to it, by just the qualification of the passage of time.
Some might say that is a good thing as it demonstrates that we have a lot of Brethren who have given great service to the Craft. Others might say it shows that our membership age profile tends to confirm that most of our members, senior by age, hold Grand Rank and as more younger men join, it will naturally adjust. Whilst others will say that in too many Lodges there is an inequitable number of Grand Officers to the general membership, which can be seen as a barrier to demonstrating the equality amongst all Brethren in a Lodge. Some others have also suggested that a conferral or promotion should only take place once during a Grand Master’s tenure.
So it is fair to say there has been a lot of discussion, over time on this prickly issue!
I don’t profess to know what the best way forward on Grand Rank is. What I can say is that I have decided to place a halt on conferrals and promotions, until a report is received from a special advisory panel I am forming to submit a recommendation on whether there should be a change to the policy. The purpose of this is to create an appropriate reward/rank system to genuinely reflect great service toward Freemasonry, in its widest sense. I hope this advisory panel will meet in the near term, so we can consider and discuss their recommendations with all interested members. The panel will comprise of senior Freemasons, but they will also seek submissions from any member that has a view they would like to have shared.
Further information on this will be circulated in due course.
Bro. Keith Murray
Want to read messages from past members of the senior management team? Coming soon.