Messages from the President of the
Board of General Purposes

RWBro. Justin Stark

President of the Board of General Purposes

2 November 2018 – Marketing Changes and Board Focus

Brethren,

Our organisation is driven from our members and our Lodges and the success of Freemasonry is built on the work that is done by our volunteers. At a governance layer, we are calling for applications to the Board of General Purposes for 4-year terms, commencing in April 2019 and the application form is available from the Grand Secretary and on our member website.

However, this is not the only area in which our organisation relies on the efforts of our volunteers.  Our Grand Team members are all volunteers; they are not funded by our organisation but commit time, effort and a large financial commitment to be part of the Team. This includes travel, both international and intrastate, as well as metropolitan and country Installations. On average, a Grand Team member will invest over $5,000 in being part of the team and serving our Craft. What makes me proud of the team, is the feedback we all receive when travelling in other jurisdictions. Victorian Freemasonry is recognised as a leader in the way we represent the Craft and it is driven from our Lodges and the expectations we all have on the delivery of Masonic ritual.

As mentioned previously, we are implementing marketing changes; be it representing our Lodges, Grand Teams, Royal Freemasons or the Freemasons Foundation, the term Freemasonry and the name “Freemasons” binds us together. This is especially apparent when asking the public about our organisation; they recognise us as Freemasons. The term Masonic is foreign to many and was even used as a puzzle in a paper recently in Victoria. To this end, the term FMV will be phased out and replaced by “Freemasons” and our new buildings, signage and collateral will reflect this change over time. More importantly, we will start referring to our building as, “Freemasons – Eastern” or “Freemasons – Melbourne” for Box Hill and the Dallas Brooks site respectively. That will make it easier for our members and the public to recognise our key sites.

As a component of that work, we have established a Business Development team that will be working together with our building trustees to establish tools, processes and supporting materials to help increase the use of our buildings. At present, the average utilisation of our buildings is very low and that means we have large assets that are not generating any income to help support their upkeep and maintenance. If we can work together to increase the income generated from buildings from external sources, that will help us reduce the need for other income streams. This will support our sustainability and affordability for our membership in the future.

We are continually looking for ways in which to minimise the cost of Freemasonry to our membership and especially the manner in which our office runs. This is and will continue to be a key driver for the Board and one that underpins our sustainability into the future. To ensure that we can keep our member contributions as low as possible whilst maintaining a sustainable financial model, we do rely on our volunteers and they work they do in Lodges, Districts and for our organisation. If you have the time and an inclination, please contact any of the incoming portfolio leaders, your District Coordinators or Lodge leadership. They would appreciate any assistance and our organisation will be the better for the efforts we all put in. Just helping at the end of a meeting to clean the South or pack up the Lodge room makes a real difference and reminds us all we are all working together, towards the betterment of our Craft.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” William James.

Fraternally, 

Bro. Justin Stark 
President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

In March 2019, the Board Selection Panel will be electing 4 new members to the Board of General Purposes (BGP); 3 of the current elected members are eligible to re-apply and are subject to the same process as all members of the Craft.  

An election to the BGP is for a 4-year term and bears expectations of monthly Board meetings, active involvement in a Volunteer Action Team and/or a BGP sub-committee and representing the membership with regular visits to Lodges.  If elected, you will be a leader within the Craft, driving decisions that support our organisation into the future.  BGP positions hold great responsibility and influence and you will gain a new insight into the impact our organisation has within our communities.

The BGP is looking for qualified Brethren to be actively involved in the strategic decision making of our Craft.  We are seeking Brethren with experience in one or more areas of governance, finance, marketing, legal services, information technology and/or membership organisations. 

The aim of the BGP is to engage our Membership, Volunteer Actions Teams, and office staff in driving outcomes that improve our member experience and retention within our Fraternity.  The key focus of the BGP is ensuring that our members and Lodges are empowered to make decisions that impact the success of their own Lodges.  Over the next few years, our key focuses are membership, financial stability and community engagement. 

If you would like to have a voice in how our organisation is run, it is important to have your nomination endorsed by your Lodge and submitted to the Grand Secretary before the fall of the gavel at the next Quarterly Communication in December 2018.

If you would like more information, please feel free to reach out to any current member of the BGP, who will be only too happy to help you understand the impact each of us can have whilst serving the Craft.

Below are the relevant clauses from our Book of Constitutions for election to the BGP:

Rule 310
The eight elected members of the Board of General Purposes shall hold office for four years, with four retiring each two years, and shall be elected by the Board Selection Panel as provided for in these Rules.  No elected member shall serve more than two terms consecutively. If the President appointed by the Board of General Purposes is one of the eight elected members of the Board, then the Board Selection Panel will supply a replacement eighth member in accordance with Rule 312.

Rule 311
A brother nominating for election to the Board of General Purposes must

  1. be a subscribing member of a warranted Lodge under the United Grand Lodge of Victoria;
  2. have held the rank of at least Master Mason within such a Lodge for a minimum period of five consecutive years immediately prior to nominating;
  3. be able to demonstrate his active involvement in Freemasonry;
  4. have his nomination endorsed by a resolution of a Lodge of which he is a subscribing member passed in open Lodge by the majority of members present.
  5. submit that nomination duly completed to the Grand Secretary by the fall of the gavel at the opening of the December Communication of Grand Lodge in an even-numbered year.

Fraternally, 

Bro. Justin Stark 
President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

As we are planning the next level of forums, I would like to provide some summary information collated from the last forums and the salient points on four of the areas in this presentation. I will be covering additional areas in a future communication.

Constitutional Reform:

  • It was agreed that constitutional reform was needed and an approach that focuses on membership and the member’s experience was more important than Grand Lodge.
  • It was agreed that the Constitution should be simpler and more easily understood with an empowerment for decisions to be driven from Lodge and Districts as they have the greatest understanding of what drives their Lodges.
  • It was discussed that our ceremonial aspects are different to our governing rules and these must be separated.
  • New members were discussed, especially pertaining to Police Checks and although an appreciation for the approach of the Grand Master and Board is understood, there was an undercurrent that this was not the express wish of the membership.
  • The restrictions on Lodge officers and time between degrees and taking offices, especially for younger members was considered an issue.

Brethren, at present, we have a Constitutional reform committee that is addressing the salient points from these discussions. They will be providing white papers for discussion, not as a fait accompli but rather areas for discussion and agreement. The plans for this committee are to release a draft for comment in the next 6-8 weeks and then have open dialogue and discussion as to how we can achieve change in our Constitution that simplifies our operating rules but maintains the integrity of the membership experience and the principles of Freemasonry in general.

Voting Principles:

  • The was a consensus that a change to the voting methodology is needed and that the methodology of having the Deacons count members standing to vote was not suitable.
  • A number of methods have been offered including:
    • Secret Ballots at Quarterly Communications
    • Online Voting
    • Multiple Voting Systems
    • Voting in Lodges with a ballot or representative system in place
    • One Man – One Vote was clear
    • Annual General Meetings with a representative system
  • Concern was raised around amendments to motions, especially as they pertain to multiple voting systems
  • Mention was made of having restricted voting via a panel and that voting be restricted to Master Mason’s and above.

Brethren, voting is complex, but we cannot continue to drive a decision-making process that is meant to represent the Craft but has 8% of our membership engaged. Unfortunately, many other methods have costs associated, but we will be obtaining quotes on a number of options to determine both the most appropriate to engage with our membership as well as ensure we are representing the majority of our membership in the decision making process.  Once received, we will put together a plan of action for discussion to ensure we are engaging more of our membership in our decision making.

Masonic Behavior:

  • Bad behavior is affecting more than relationships in Lodges, it is also effecting the retention of new members; we must remember when we joined Freemasonry and support our new members.
  • The Code of Conduct should be distributed to all members and our communications, especially our internet site must be up to date.
  • Lodges need to be able to focus on both ritual and Masonic education, which includes behavior.
  • The leadership in Lodges, including the Master must be empowered to call out poor behavior as it occurs and have the support of the Lodge and Freemasonry in doing so.
  • Social media, anonymous emails and other abusive communications are driving new and older members away from Freemasonry and reflecting poorly on our organisation.

Brethren, this is a behavior our office and our staff cannot influence or change.  Good behavior must be driven by members and Lodges.  Every one of us is empowered to call out poor behavior when it is seen and ensure that we enjoy only positive experiences at socials functions, in Lodge and when engaging with the community. The Board will continue to support those Brethren that call out poor Masonic behavior and support Lodges that need assistance in dealing with such individuals or groups.

Membership Fees:

  • There was generally agreement that an annual fee of $125 per annum with CPI increases was acceptable, although some members inquired if the fee could be increased slightly to reduce the joining costs.
  • There was discussion on concession fees and with the general consensus being that this should be driven by the Lodges.
  • Questions pertaining to Budgets and reports on Grand Lodge finances where asked, especially with respect to annual fees.
  • Members agreed in principle, that we need to pay our own way but we need to ensure we are getting value for our dues.
  • There was a strong feeling that the Board needs to continue to reign in costs.

Brethren, we have produced budgets, previous years accounts and a plan to move into break even budgets in the future. We understand that there are conflicting costs but, for the services provided, Grand Lodge membership fees are reasonable. The cost of joining Freemasonry, when compared to past years is not expensive, but it is understood that it may be a barrier to membership for some younger members.

Our Marketing Brand

Brethren,

At the Board of General Purposes meeting this month, it was agreed that our brand is the Square and Compasses with the word “Freemasons” as the key identifier. This replaces the FMV identification that has been used recently and is consistent with the understanding of our brand across Freemasons Victoria, Freemasons Foundation Victoria and Royal Freemasons.

At present, our marketing team is finalising the style guide which will include usage principles and the updated logo details. This will then be implemented within our printed materials and external marketing although the change-over for more concrete and static services will be completed as the existing signs need replacing.

We all understand that “we are Freemasons” and that the Square and Compass is a highly recognised symbol within our Fraternity and the community. By including the word “Freemasons” we ensure that our organisation is directly linked to our well-known logo.

Fraternally, 

Bro. Justin Stark 
President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

Our finances are due to be released to the membership at the September Quarterly Communication and as an organisation, we will be providing the consolidated figures for approval. However, we are also providing additional material that details the Masonic and organisational activities that we must deliver as part of our responsibilities; you will see the breakdown of the Building and General Funds. The materials will also include explanatory notes that will help our membership understand the impact your contributions have on our financial position.

It is essential that we create an inspiring vision for the future of Freemasonry in Victoria, while inspiring our fellow Brethren to engage with our vision. We must also provide the necessary support to our Brethren and the Board to ensure a stable and viable future for our Craft.

If you are yet to reserve your seat at the Quarterly Communication, I kindly encourage you to do so. It will be held at Bayside Masonic Centre and attendees must be seated at 7:15pm. A light finger food supper with drinks will follow the Quarterly Communication and tickets are $20. Brethren, if you wish to book, please click below.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the September Quarterly Communication, which should be a celebration of Freemasonry and bring us closer together.

Please click below to download a copy of the reports for the September Quarterly Communication.

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark

President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

The Board has been, very deliberately, working towards more open communications; to bringing the decision making for Freemasonry to each and every member. So far, we have held a number of open forums which have been opportunities for our membership to work directly with Board members to voice concerns, express opinions and help frame the organisation. These forums have had a positive vibe and we will continue to plan these into the future. It is a great way for all of us to communicate and a source of great energy in the Craft.

In reflecting on these, we have many stakeholders and each of us has a different perspective on what Freemasonry means. Our membership is spread over the State’s broad surface and it cannot be denied that we have different expectations of our Lodges, our Districts and our Craft. What cannot be denied, however, is the love we all have for Freemasonry and that we recognise that it is greater than the sum of its parts. We are also understanding that what works for one member, may not be suitable for another. What makes one Lodge successful may not make another successful and so on. Realistically, the consistent message from these open meetings is that we all want to see our organisation grow, thrive and survive.

The role of the Board is to balance these needs and expectations. It is vital to ensure that members, Lodges and Districts are all empowered to meet the needs of their stakeholders whilst maintaining the integrity of Freemasonry. Our Grand Master holds this requirement for the Ritual and Ceremonial aspects; he is tasked with bringing together all the different needs and expectations and having them framed across our organisation whilst maintaining the harmony that is needed. The Board has that responsibility for our operations.

As a component, each of us must recognise that there is compromise that must be had; that providing to every members’ personal expectations is impossible. Our role is to provide the middle group, to set the framework of compromise that ensures everyone has a positive experience of Freemasonry and that we are working towards the future. Making the world a better place, one man at a time does not involve dramatic change but rather change in your personal area of influence. The Board is helping to facilitate that change and ensuring that it is consistent across Freemasonry in Victoria.

Our finances are due to be released at the September Quarterly Communication and as an organisation, we will be providing the consolidated figures for approval. However, we are also providing additional material that details the Masonic and Organisational activities that we must deliver as part of our responsibilities; you will see the breakdown of the Building and General funds. The materials will also include explanatory notes that will help our membership understand the impact your contributions have on our financial position. After the Quarterly Communication, we will also hold a ‘live streamed forum’ including a location for Brethren to attend in person to address any questions and concerns our membership has on our financial position and the Annual Report. Myself, the Grand Treasurer and the Head of our Finance Committee will all be in attendance and available to answer questions from those on site or that are able to dial in to the webinar. Details are to follow.

The journey of 1000 miles commences with a step and we are on that path. Our Board members and especially our member representatives are more than willing to hear your concerns and help each member understand how our organisation runs and to voice your concerns with the Board.

My commitment to Freemasonry is to leave it in a better state when my tenure as President of the Board of General Purposes ends and each Board member is working towards the same outcomes. Change takes time; we are on a journey together and hopefully we are demonstrating that our desire for open and honest communications is unwavering.

I look forward to seeing as many of our brethren at Quarterly Communications which should be a celebration of Freemasonry and bring us closer together.

Fraternally, 

Bro. Justin Stark 
President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren, 

The Board of General Purposes is seeking nominations from suitably qualified Brethren to serve on the Board Selection Panel as an elected member.

The Board Selection Panel has the responsibility for the selection of Candidates for the Board of General Purposes. Rules 300 – 308 of the Book of Constitutions define the process for the nomination and election of this panel.

The Selection Panel is comprised of:

  1. the Deputy Grand Master;
  2. an elected representative of each District who, in each case, shall have held at least the rank of Master Mason for at least five consecutive years and be a member of a Lodge in the District from which he is elected; and
  3. the Grand Registrar.

The Deputy Grand Master shall Chair the meetings of the Panel. The Deputy Grand Master and the Grand Registrar shall not be entitled to vote.

Pursuant to Rule 302(d) of the Book of Constitutions, the Board has determined that every candidate must be able to demonstrate:

  • He is a man of good character and has demonstrated, over a period of time, attachment to the Craft and loyalty to the United Grand Lodge of Victoria.
  • He possesses a thorough understanding of the state of the Craft in Victoria and an appreciation of the challenges which it faces.
  • He possesses an understanding of the vision and the Strategic imperatives for the future of Freemasonry in Victoria and an understanding of what will be required to bring the vision and strategic imperatives to reality.
  • An understanding of the governance structures of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria and role of the Board of General Purposes within those structures.
  • An understanding of the skills and experience required to make a contribution to the strategic management of the organisation.
  • He possesses the skills and personal qualities which will enable him to contribute to the panel in its selection process.

If you are interested in serving on this panel, nomination forms are available from fmv.org.au/BSPN. Nominations do not need to be endorsed by the Lodge.

Each applicant must submit a short biographical description (100 words max) outlining their qualifications relevant to each criteria, together with a passport sized photo. Nominations which do not address the qualifications of the nominee in respect of each and all of the above criteria, will be deemed to be incomplete and therefore invalid.

Should you have any questions with regard to this matter, please do not hesitate to contact Natasha Hall on 9411 0172 or natasha.hall@freemasonsvic.net.au.

All Nominations must be received by the Grand Secretary via email to natasha.hall@freemasonsvic.net.au by 5:00pm on Friday 14 September 2018.

To download the Board Selection Panel Nomination form, please click below. 

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark 
President of the Board of General Purposes

As part of the Board of General Purpose’s long-term planning, we have started to implement a number of changes within our operational portfolio; this is to ensure that we are spending less than we are receiving in revenue. This is not a consequence of the last Quarterly Communications, but a component of the longer term financial planning that has been in place for some time. Personally, I am disappointed in the outcome of the Notice of Motion, but it demonstrates that we need to engage more with our membership, listen to and share the reasons for decision making and ensure we are truly representing our Craft. We need the support of our membership and your attendance at Quarterly Communications to ensure your votes and opinions are represented.

Volunteer Focus

You will start to see changes in our administration; in the last six months, we have reduced our staffing levels from 17.4 to 12.4. We are actively pursuing Brethren to support our volunteer efforts, with the expectation that as we increase the level of volunteers in the organisation, we will enhance the level of service available to our membership and communities. We are implementing the cost-saving plans produced as part of ourlong-termfinancial planning without major impacts on the services delivered. This has been supported by a continual review of all major expenditure and identifying areas where we can “tighten the belt” and drive longer-term savings for the organisation.

News on ‘The Eastbourne’

I am pleased to report that all apartments have been sold within The Eastbourne project. This is an incredible effort from all those who have been involved and helps frame our forecast budgets for the ensuing years. We are now working with Project Review Group (PRG) to address the fit out and services to be provided. The PRG has been tasked with working with Mark, Chapter and our Craft Lodges to work on moving back to East Melbourne, ensuring that our new building is a monument to Freemasonry, meets our operational requirements and maximises our rental income. The Eastbourne will have two Lodge rooms, meeting areas and support an extensive display of our important artefacts and book collection.

Improving Communications

We have booked nine member forums over the next few months; over time, we will be holding forums in all parts of the State. In the short term, we will be holding open sessions at Bendigo, Keysborough, Sunshine, Wodonga, Warrnambool, Traralgon, Ballarat, Baxter and Bairnsdale. The Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master and I, in conjunction with Board Members, are keen to ensure that we continue to maintain communications with all Brethren and ensure we meet as many of you as we can. One of the most important messages we can share is that unless you are informed and subsequently attend Quarterly Communications, your voice cannot be heard.

Let’s work together

Brethren, what is important to all of us is the membership experience; it is a keystone of our organisation and a focus of our strategic plan. It cannot be ledbyour office and staff but rather, needs to be enlivened in every Lodge, in every member and in every communication we have in our Craft. Our social media activities can generate the interest of those without Masonic connections, but our greatest advertisement for Freemasonry is each and every member. We are turning the corner on membership growth, but I would like to challenge each Lodge to find two new members per year. Your friends, acquaintances and family should all be able to see the value Freemasonry has in your lives; how can we share that to grow our numbers? Let your District Coordinators or the Membership team know what assistance your Lodges need to attract new members; we will do all we can to assist, but it is a shared responsibility.

Addressing the Issues

Our resolve to address the major issues impacting our organisation remains firm and clear. We will be providing the Building Fund and General Fund reports at the September Quarterly Communications as well as identifying those entries that impact on our consolidated accounts but are not directly related to income or expenditure. We will be presenting a notice of Motion with respect to Capitation Fees framed on our operational requirements and the feedback from our membership, directly and received at the open forums. We continue to work on our longer-term financial planning, the building works and maintenance plans that are in progress. Interviews for the Grand Secretary and Head of Operations roles are in progress, and we hope to have good news to share in these areas in the near term.

Communications is key; the Board will continue its communication plans and hope that this drives additional communications in Districts, in Lodges and within the community. Our membership should never lose their voice. Remember the words of our Grand Master, through our words and actions we will “Make the world a better place, one man at a time”.

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark
President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

In previous communications I have highlighted some of the challenges ahead for Freemasons Victoria. One of the most important of these is making sure that we have a sustainable financial future. The Board is focused on managing the financial position for Freemasonry and, whilst there is still work to do, I am confident that we will rise to this challenge as a fraternity. We are working towards ensuring that we have a sustainable financial model and are committed to open dialogue and information sharing.

The forecasts presented below show projected Income versus Expenditure, but does not take into account taxation, depreciation and amortisation which will all impact on the final figures. What should be clear is that the Board is working towards achieving a financially stable position over the next 7 years, however that cannot occur overnight. We are not relying on asset sales to artificially inflate our financial position. Rather, any asset sales should be used to improve our property portfolio and support the growth of our Fraternity.

The following are some of the assumption relating to our budget forecasts from FY19 – FY25.

 

FY19

FY20

FY21

FY22

FY23

FY24

   

General Fund

-1,280,000

530,000

555,000

460,000

590,000

520,000

665,000

 

2,040,000

Building Fund

-515.000

-295,000

-365,000

-370,000

-175,000

-120,000

-130,000

 

-1,970,000

 
 

-1,795,000

235,000

190,000

90,000

415,000

400,000

535,000

Forecast

70,000

Notes:

Calculated on Income – Expenditure. Does not account for Tax, Depreciation, or, Amortisation.

The following are the major assumptions that we have made in these forecasts:

  • Current membership of 8,800 growing to 10,000 in 2025.
  • 50% of our membership pay the discounted membership fees.
  • Proposed increase in membership fees of $5 per annum from FY21.
  • Costs of Quarterly Communications and Grand Installation reduced by $350k over 7 years.
  • Reduction of staffing cost of approximately $1.4M over 7 years; primarily driven from attrition of roles and being able to focus on our core operating principles.
  • Investment income return of 4.87% for investment funds till FY21, increasing to 5.0% in FY22.
  • The Eastbourne site will be cost neutral, with the costs of our accommodation being offset by the rental income generated from the use of the 2nd floor.
  • Land tax reductions of $800k over 7 years.
  • Maintenance costs and minor repairs for buildings to be approximately $2.4M over 7 years.
  • Major repairs and upgrades to building to be approximately $3.0M over 7 years.
  • Funding model of $750,000 for property development funding for major developments, such as the Western Masonic Centre and Werribee Masonic sites.
  • National travel costs funded by Grand Lodge (including New Zealand) for installations to be $35k per annum.
  • International travel costs funded by Grand Lodge to be limited to $50k per annum. This is for growth areas for Victorian Freemasonry and includes the Philippines, Malaysia and India.

We are a philanthropic organisation and we are proposing that those needing support can be provided with it; as Freemasons we will continue to support each other and our community. We have dedicated staff who work towards our goals and the needs of Freemasonry, and who are supported by volunteers in Lodges, Districts, the Board, and Volunteer Action teams. As an organisation, we cannot deliver on our promises to each other or the community without our volunteers and that support is greatly appreciated. We will not get everything right, but no-one offers their services without the best intentions. We cannot change the past, but we must learn from it and strive for better outcomes in the future. We cannot continue to have expenditure greater than our income.

Brethren, this motion amounts to $35 per annum for each individual member and I urge you to attend Quarterly Communications, either at the Bayside Masonic Centre or any of the 17 designated Masonic Centres. I look forward to your attendance and ask you for your support of Freemasonry in Victoria.

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark
President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

At the June Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge the motion to increase membership 
fees from $114.95 (incl GST) p.a to $150 (incl GST) p.a, fixed for three years to 2021, with concessions as previously advised, will be put to the membership for a vote.

When considering the merits of this proposal it is important that we take into account our overall financial position. I, and the Board, have received a number of requests for greater detail on why it is necessary to increase membership fees. We shall continue to try to address these requests and provide as much information as is practicable in order to keep members up to date on our organisation’s situation and allow everyone to make an informed decision.

Our constitution defines that we manage two main funds; the General Fund and the Building 
Fund. These will be reported on, in detail, at the September Quarterly Communications. The following table highlights the projected surplus/deficit for these funds over the next 7 years. These projections are based on the assumptions that we will deliver the program of works for our property portfolio, and that we will implement the planned cost reduction initiatives in our overall business activities.

FMV Financial Forecast FY19 – FY25. EBITDA (e.g. Revenue – Expenditure)

Surplus

FY19

FY20

FY21

FY22

FY23

FY24

FY25

General Fund

(1,559,225)

(853,494)

(344,964)

(346,432)

(279,691)

(437,960)

(274,918)

Building Fund

173,376

689,841

670,512

666,179

661,270

666,286

650,482

Consolidates EBITDA

(1,385,849)

(163,653)

325,548

319,747

381,579

228,326

375,564

Note that not all costs are reflected in the Building Fund as we need to work on the allocations.

Our ability to build a sustainable future has been, in large part, based the success of our 
building program. Bayside, Box Hill, and eventually The Eastbourne centres will all provide a positive income stream. Future development projects will need to be self-funding, and  revenue positive. However, our metropolitan Lodges are not the only places that we invest in and we need your help to ensure that our buildings are maintained into the future.

Brethren, we have over 110 buildings that need to be maintained and managed. Our buildings are generally underutilised and this is a source of income we need to exploit in the future. We need volunteers to assist in driving outcomes for the future of the Craft. We cannot rely on a few committed Freemasons, each of us needs to reflect on how we can help, not only our own Lodges, but our Districts and meeting places.

In the last two years, Freemasons have invested $260,000 in Bairnsdale, $130,000 in 
Brunswick, $115,000 in Cohuna, $850,000 in Essendon and we still need to invest $350,000 on additional worksto drive additional income, $240,000 in Hamilton, $130,000 in Numurkah. In addition, the Building Fund has made grants for small works to Masonic Centres totalling over $300,000. Brethren, this is an investment of over $2 million dollars in the future of Freemasonry. Each time we invest in a building, Freemasons Victoria has a responsibility to ensure that the building meets building code requirements, that the project is managed and we are following due process with respect to spending your money.

I have also been asked about our operations and staff complement. It is worth understanding 
the work that FMV undertake on our behalf. Managing our property portfolio requires a degree of functional knowledge and expertise. We have a Property Manager position to lead this work. This role is supported by our Head of Operations and by the Volunteer Action Team that is led by the Grand Superintendent of Works.

The management of Masonic Services is under the leadership of the Grand Secretary. The 
Grand Secretary’s office consists of 4 staff and they manage, our Lodges, the District Coordinators, Fraternal Relations, the Grand Master’s and Deputy Grand Master’s requirements, as well as Lodge Installations and key events (i.e. Grand Installations, Quarterly Communications). They ensure that our service jewels, promotions and certificates are made available at the appropriate times.

We also have a team that manages our finances, and our legislative and regulatory 
obligations. Thisteam manages our relationships with government agencies, submits our BAS reports and tax returns, ensures we have the appropriate policies and procedures in place, and manages our assets. They work closely with the Grand Treasurer and Finance Committee to help maximise our returns on investment whilst ensuring our risk is minimised. This team is also responsible for ensuring that reports, papers and Board requirements are made available (e.g. Board, Finance, Risk & Audit) on a monthly basis. With the support of the Head of Operations, this is a team of 3.9 staff.

We have a Membership and Marketing team that manages our social media presence,
produces our communications as well as our magazine and annual report. They are also responsible for ensuring that live streams are in place so that our Brethren can participate in events remotely. This team of 3.5 also manages the new member attraction function. We currently have 260 active applications for membership that this team is processing and helping assign to Lodges via District Coordinators.

With the allowance for our reception services and Collections Manager, this reflects the 14.4 staff that we have assisting in the management of Freemasonry in Victoria.

We will continue to work towards driving savings in our operations and improve the Masonic experience for our membership. We will strive for new income streams to support our organisation. We will continue to be open in our communications and take an approach that explains our situation before we put forward changes to the Craft.

To achieve the financial sustainability that we all desire it is important that the motion to increase the membership fee is supported. As you can see, the projected $1 million dollars over 6.5 years raised by this membership fee increase does have a material effect on our organisation and it will allow us to spend the next two years focusing on activities that will drive sustainability for Freemasonry into the future.

In my next letter, I will be sharing the high level budgets. I will also share some of the
assumptions we have made, for example we have budgeted for 50% of our membership fees to be at the concessional rate.

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark
President of the Board of General Purposes

Dear Brethren,

Since announcing the proposed motion to increase membership fees at the March Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge, the Board of General Purposes has been encouraged by the level of discussion at Lodge meetings and via direct contact.

As the governing body of Freemasons Victoria with responsibility for matters of governance and strategy, the Board is acutely aware of its responsibilities to our Brethren. This includes keeping informed of members’ views and ensuring that members are provided with accurate information when being asked to vote on matters that affect the fraternity.

The Board will hold open forums to engage with members on the topics of:

  • Proposed membership fee increase,
  • Budget projections for the years 2019 to 2025,
  • Revenue and expenditure, and,
  • The need for change.

Four member forums will be held on Thursday 31May 2018, at the following Masonic Centres:

  • Bayside
  • Box Hill
  • Traralgon
  • Belmont (Geelong)

Timing: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Each forum will be hosted by a panel comprised of:
2 members of the Board of General Purposes, a District Coordinator, and a Senior Freemason.These forums are open to all Brethren, howeverattendance will be based on registration. To register for one of these forums please log on to https://www.trybooking.com/eventlist/memberforums, select the location you would like to attend and register your details. There is no charge to attend these forums.

The Bayside forum will be filmed, but not live-streamed. Footage of this event will be uploaded on to the FMV website soon after the event, for Brethren unable to attend a forum.

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark
President of the Board of General Purposes

Brethren,

As you are aware the Quarterly Communications of Grand Lodge will be held on Wednesday 20 June 2018.

With the opening of the Bayside Masonic Centre, we are keen to encourage as many Brethren to attend the Quarterly Communication as possible. Bayside can accommodate over 500 participants, so there will be room for all who wish to attend, and I encourage you all to do so.

The Board recognises that there are some Brethren who, for whatever reason, are unable to attend in person on the night. To accommodate these Brethren, and to ensure that we all have an opportunity to participate in the event and any voting procedures, the Board has determined the following as designated Masonic Centres for the June Quarterly Communications. The proceedings of Grand Lodge will be live-streamed to these Centres:

  • Bairnsdale
  • Ballarat
  • Baxter
  • Belmont
  • Bendigo
  • Box Hill
  • Greensborough
  • Horsham
  • Mildura
  • Pakenham
  • Shepparton
  • Sunshine
  • South East Masonic Centre
  • Swan Hill
  • Traralgon
  • Wangaratta
  • Warrnambool

The livestream link for these Centres will be provided closer to the date.

If you would like to attend the Quarterly Communications at Bayside Masonic Centre, please ensure you register your attendance at https://www.trybooking.com/VNBJ

I look forward to seeing many of you on the night.

Fraternally,

Bro Justin Stark

President of the Board of General Purposes

A message from the President of the Board of General Purposes, on behalf of the Board, to all members of Freemasons Victoria. 

Brethren,

You will see three roles advertised in the next few days, on Seek.com, LinkedIn.com and within several Freemasonry publications.

These are roles currently budgeted for as part of the 14.4 positions within the office. We are advertising for a Grand Secretary/Head of Masonic Services, a Head of Operations and a Property Manager.

The Grand Secretary/Head of Masonic Services is a Masonic appointment and for all Masonic activities takes directions from the Grand Master and the Board of General Purposes. We have been working with Supreme Grand Chapter and Grand Mark to consolidate operational services from CHAMAR into the FMV Office.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been agreed between all Orders and one of the underpinning premises is that no-Order will be subsidising the costs of another. In fact, the expectation is that the total costs to all three Orders will be slightly reduced as they will support each other for the benefit of our Fraternity.

Our Constitution defines Freemasonry as 5 degrees and this MOU brings us closer to that aim. The Grand Secretary will work with and manage the team that drives Masonic Services and for operational activities will work closely with the Head of Operations. The Grand Scribe Ezra and Mark Grand Secretary will continue to take direction, on Masonic matters, from their respective Boards.

The Head of Operations will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of our office. To have an outward view of our organisation and to market to those that do not have a knowledge of Freemasonry.  The role will also be responsible for our financial deliverables, publications, external marketing, legislative and corporate affairs.  The role will manage operational activities and report to the Board of General Purposes.

The Grand Secretary and Head of Operations will work closely together to ensure our office delivers the services expected by our membership. The Head of Operations will, however, be the key responsible individual in our office as they hold the responsibility for all operational activities, including staff management, wages and operational expenses. The Masonic Services support team of Julia Edwards, Ben Quick, and Graham Berry remains unchanged.

The Property Manager will be responsible for ensuring our buildings continue to meet operational requirements, especially around maintenance, upgrades and ongoing support.  This role will report to the Head of Operations and work closely with the Grand Superintendent of Works and the Works Volunteer Action Team.

Brethren, I encourage those interested and with the capabilities, to apply for relevant roles and to support and frame our organisation into the future. I would, however, request that any Brother applying for one of these roles withdraw any application for the casual vacancies on the Board of General Purpose as this can be viewed as a conflict of interest, especially if they are successful in any of the roles.

The same instruction has been provided to the Board of General Purposes to ensure that our Board does not have any conflict if they choose to apply for any of these roles.

I look forward to the next stage of our growth in Freemasonry and wish all those who apply all the best in their application process.

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark
President of the Board of General Purposes

Click HERE to read more about careers at Freemasons Victoria. 

A message from the President of the Board of General Purposes, on behalf of the Board, to all members of Freemasons Victoria. 

Brethren,

I personally would like to thank those who have the passion and commitment to our Craft to question the proposed change in capitation fees. Such discussion is healthy and shows the desire that we all have to see our fraternity continue, from year to year, and from generation to generation.

Over the past five years, through sound management and favourable market conditions, we have been able to protect and grow our asset base. The teams that have managed our properties and our investment portfolio have done an incredible job in this regard, and we have all benefited from this work.  During this time we have sold a number of centres; Sandringham, Dromana and Moorabbin to name a few. Total property sales have raised approximately $17.8 million. As a result of these sales there are some who believe we have surplus cash and should be using this to pay for the running costs of the business.

However, during the same period we have also been investing back into our property portfolio. Investment over this period has been approximately $25.5 million. This includes major works at South East Masonic Centre, Echuca, Essendon, Hamilton, Cohuna and Bairnsdale, amongst others. As you are aware we have also completed new developments at Bayside, Box Hill and Traralgon. There are plans for further property works at Sunshine, Wodonga and Swan Hill. This maintenance, upgrade, or development work has been funded from the sale of properties, investment returns from the Building fund, and borrowings. As a reminder, 10% of capitation fees ($90,000) is allocated to the Building fund. As you will realise this falls far short of what is required to meet the upkeep of our Lodge meeting place requirements and so the Building fund must generate its own income from the portfolio. Part of the strategy to achieve this is the work that has been done to develop new centres; Box Hill and Bayside, which will generate enough commercial revenue to be either cost neutral, or even revenue positive.

The running of our fraternity must be paid for out of the General fund. 90% of capitation fees ($810,000) is allocated to the General fund. Again, given the fixed and variable costs associated with delivering the levels of service expected by members, this revenue falls far short of what is required. As an example, the production and distribution of the FMV journal costs approximately $40.00 per member each year. Historically we have allocated $4 per member from capitation fees for the journal. Our Finance Committee has just presented the projected budgets for 2019-2025, based on our strategic deliverables. Brethren, this budget does not paint a positive picture for Freemasonry in Victoria. At our current rate of expenditure by 2025 our net asset base will shrink from $92.8 million down to $84.8 million to cover our projected costs. Whilst our overall asset position has been improved with the Eastbourne development, delivering approximately $31 million in cash and a further $20 million in building assets (included in 2017 financial accounts), to continue on this path is, I believe, unacceptable and does not discharge our obligations as custodians for the future of our Craft. As a Board, this is unacceptable as it does not show strong fiscal responsibility. On that basis we; the Board, FMV Operations, and the membership, must look at our current and projected expenditure and put in place plans that will move us from our projected deficit position to one where we can continue to deliver a meaningful experience for members, maintain core services, and leave a sound financial legacy for those who come after us.

We have already made a start on this journey. In FMV Operations we have reduced the 2017/18 staff cohort of 17.4 employees down to 14.4, and will continue to drive for further cost savings. I must add at this point that whilst you will soon see advertisements for the roles of Head of Operations, Grand Secretary/Masonic Service Manager, and Property Manager, these are replacement roles brought about by resignations, and are not additional roles in FMV Operations. Further to this we are looking at ways to reduce our cost base around Grand Lodge activities, including publications, events and service costs. As we finalise our budgets for the remainder of the strategic plan all Brethren will see the changes that we are putting in place and I will be sharing highlights of these in my next address to members. However, even with the proposed capitation fee increase, we will still be in deficit if we do not change our expenditure plans. The proposed capitation fee increase will raise approximately $450k over three years. Over the remainder of the strategic plan (2019 – 2025), it will raise approximately $1 million. That will still leave a deficit of approximately $7 million to address. At present, we have identified approximately $5 million of savings and we will be working to reduce the deficit further.

The proposed capitation fee is part of our fiscal responsibility. It drives part of our future sustainability. I ask you to support the proposed membership fees change and help ensure our Craft remains vibrant into the future. As a Board, we also understand that change takes time and we have not provided that time to allow our Brethren and Lodges to plan for this. The motion is to implement the change for three years from the 1 July 2018 but this will not be effective until 1 January 2019.  This provides all members with the time to plan and budget for these changes and our secretaries the time to ensure FMV records accurately reflect each member’s status.

As part of the Board’s commitment we will continue to keep you informed of the changes we are putting in place. Part of that process is my communications, and in addition to these we will be holding question and answer sessions in key areas. These will not be presentations, but open dialogue and communications to share the direction we are taking. Details will be released shortly and I look forward to your feedback and support.

Fraternally,

Bro. Justin Stark
President of the Board of General Purposes

Proposed Capitation Fees.

Brethren,

The proposed increase in capitation fees from $114.95 (inc GST) to $150 (inc GST) per year has caused a level of discussion throughout Freemasons Victoria, a discussion which I encourage and support. However, I would like to take this opportunity to set out the reasons for the Board of General Purposes’ decision to increase capitation fees, the provision of additional concession rates and to ensure that all members understand the importance of this issue.

Fee structure:

The current rate of capitation fee was set in 2016 at $114.95 per year. The capitation fee has remained at this level for 2 years.

The proposed rate of $150 per year is to be fixed for 3 years, to 2021.

Comparison rates:

At the current rate of $114.95 Freemasons Victoria has the lowest level of capitation fee in Australian jurisdictions. The proposed capitation fee increase will still see Freemasons Victoria placed 4th out of all States in capitation fee costs, and that is for 2018. As most other jurisdictions increase their fees on an annual basis by 2021 the capitation fees for WA, QLD, and NSW will be considerably higher than Victoria. This is despite Freemasons Victoria providing a competitively high level of service and support to its members.

  • WA: $235 p.a. Concessions based on a case by case basis.
  • QLD: $170 p.a. 50% discount for students only.
  • NSW: $151 p.a. From July 2018. No concessions.
  • SA: $127 p.a. No concessions.
  • TAS: $116 p.a. No concessions.

The average annual capitation fee for these states is: $159 p.a.

The proposed UGLV capitation fee of $150 p.a. is below the average of what it costs in capitation fees to be a Freemason in Australia.

Concessions:

Currently Freemasons Victoria offers a concessional capitation fee on the following basis:

  • Holders of a current student card – enrolled in full time study at an Australian University, or TAFE.
  • Members who have been awarded a 70 year jewel ($0 capitation fee).
  • Members aged 100 years, or older ($0 capitation fee).
  • Members experiencing financial hardship – the Lodge Secretary to consult with the Grand Secretary, on a case by case basis.

The motion to increase capitation fees extends the provisions for some members to pay a concessional capitation fee ($114.95 per year), based on the following criteria:

  • Holders of a Commonwealth of Australia Health Care Card, or,
  • Holders of a Department of Veterans Affairs Health Card – All conditions, or,
  • Holders of a Department of Veterans Affairs Health Card – Totally & Permanently incapacitated.

The current concessions as detailed above and offered to members will still remain in place.

At $114.95, members who receive the concession capitation fee rate will be paying the same rate of capitation fee from 2016 to 2021.

Privacy:

I have heard feedback that asking members for evidence of eligibility for the concessional capitation fee rate is a breach of the privacy laws in Australia. This is simply not the case. It is common practice in Australia for concessions to be offered to individuals based on certain criteria. To access the concessional rate the individual is usually asked to show eligibility i.e. on the train, at the doctor’s, and even for utility bills. This is the same principle adopted at Freemasons Victoria.

It has also been mentioned that the concessional capitation fee rates are discriminatory. Well, yes they are! We are Freemasons, we practice compassion and charity. The concessional capitation fee rates are in place to provide for members who, through no fault of their own, may find it difficult to meet the full fee and for those not covered, our compassionate practices are extended through the Secretary of the Lodge.

Service & Support:

Whilst there is always room for improvement there is no doubt that Freemasons in Victoria enjoy a high level of service and support at all levels. I am confident that our organisational practices would compare very favourably to any other jurisdiction. We are a strong and healthy jurisdiction of Freemasonry and, as President of the Board of General Purposes it is incumbent upon me, and the Board, to ensure that we remain so.

It should come as no surprise to members that our current capitation fees do not cover all of our costs; such as printing and publications, building maintenance, and Lodge and membership support. To meet the costs of maintaining our organisation we are often faced with spending money earned from investments. These are investments bequeathed to us from previous generations. As custodians of our heritage it is important that we preserve and endeavour to maintain our inheritance for future generations. The proposed capitation fee increases go some way towards reducing our reliance on investment income, but not all the way. At the same time, we are actively looking at our cost base and our budgets moving forward to ensure that we address our operational costs and operate within our means.

Member Support:

Brethren, at the June Quarterly Communications the motion to increase the capitation fees will be put to the vote. The proposed increase in capitation fees is reasonable and provides more than adequate provisions for those facing difficult, or strained circumstances. The Board is proposing these increases, fixed for three years, to ensure that we can maintain an appropriate level of member services and support, and continue to advance Freemasonry in Victoria. Your support for this motion is important to achieving those ends.

Fraternally yours,


Bro. Justin Stark

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