MWBro Dr Neil Jensen, Grand Master, Freemasons SA & the NT
Response to 60 year Jewel presentation 9 January 2021 - Barcaldine, Queensland
Acknowledgement of Country: I’d like to acknowledge the Traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today: the land of the Inigai people.
I would also like to pay my respects to Elders past and present and to the population of indigenous Australians who have lived here for many years and who take cultural responsibility for this area.
Most Worshipful Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Queensland, MWBro Paul Holland, Worshipful Master of Comet Lodge No 28, VWBro Ian R Merrit, Right Worshipful, Very Worshipful, Worshipful Brethren, Brethren all from vast areas of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory:
Thank you for this magnificent Jewel marking a significant milestone in my masonic career. Thank you also for the manner with which you have presented it to me.
The twenty fifth degree in Masonry teaches us that: “no man is an island”. Your attendance here today, and the fellowship which I have consistently experienced during my journey of self-discovery through Freemasonry, certainly reinforces that teaching.
The past 60 years have been truly momentous and I have no doubt that my ability to live through them and to face the challenges presented to me over that time has much to do with the learnings that I gained from my journey through Masonry over all of those years.
I have regularly called on the teachings of Freemasonry, commenced in this Lodge and developed throughout Australia over time. My belief in TGAOTU taught me forgiveness and Freemasonry has taught me my duty to mankind. But fundamentally, no matter the pace of life or the stressors, I have always been able to attend Lodge, contemplate the symbolism of our ornaments, furniture and jewels and part feeling ready to address any challenge.
I was born in January 1939. When I was just three months old HRH the Duke of Connaught KG retired as Grand Master of UGLE
and soon after
MWBro HRH the Duke of Kent KG was installed as GM of the UGLE by his brother, MWBro His Majesty King George VI.
I knew nothing of Masonary at that time.
I I was privileged to grow up in Barcaldine: “garden city of the west”; site of the “tree of knowledge” under which the AWU and the ALP were contemplated and formed, as a result of the shearer’s strike of 1891,
And it was here in 1961, at the age of 22, that I had the honour to become a Freemason in Comet Lodge No 28 UGLQ, in Barcaldine in the central west of Queensland.
By then Australia’s population had almost doubled from the time of my birth.
The Freemasons in South Australia and the Northern Territory recorded their peak membership of 27877 spread over 205 Lodges.
The Berlin wall was built dividing east and west Berlin
Soviet Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first human to complete an orbit of the Earth .
We were in the middle of the Vietnam War.
We had wall telephones and local, manually operated, telephone exchanges.
There have been almost unimaginable changes in the past 60 years. Now we live in a world of increasing artificial intelligence, rapid change, seismic shift in the methods of social interaction, supersonic commercial air travel is now old hat, we have landed on the moon and are preparing for commercial space travel; we are becoming familiar with measuring distance in light years; I leave it to your imagination to compare the past with the continuing progress in all areas of our seven liberal arts and sciences..
As I said earlier, over the past 60 years Masonry has been a guiding light for me. I truly believe that in the same way that it provided me with comfort, direction and purpose it can provide others with the ability to face the challenges that might arise over the next 60 years. In my view Masonry is today as, if not more, relevant as it was all those years ago when I commenced my journey through the Craft.
Tonight, I especially thank my proposer and seconder into Comet Lodge No 28: WBros Evans and Dyer.
I have done my best over sixty years to meet my every Obligation taken all those years ago in this very Lodge room, albeit upstairs. I have lived many years and worn the lamb-skin badge, with which I was here invested, with pleasure to myself, and, I hope, usefulness to the Craft in general and honour to this the Comet Lodge in particular.
That privilege of membership is sufficient reward; but your presence here tonight, MW Grand Master, is an honour which I would never have anticipated 60 years ago. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, your team of Grand Lodge Officers, the great men who have accompanied you, the WM and fellow members of Comet Lodge for your generosity in granting a Dispensation, arranging the meeting, presenting the Jewel and traveling such vast distances simply to be here, and make, not only an auspicious occasion, but also a memorable one.
Please let me thank RWBro Kevin Kerr AM PAGM for catalysing tonight’s proceedings. He epitomises all that is good about Freemasonry. His duty of love to God and all mankind are obvious to all who know him.
Please let me thank the members of the team from SA and the NT. Brethren of the UGLQ you may not be aware that this is part of a unique team of Leaders who steered the barque of progress in our rapidly changing world to a result previously considered unachievable. They shifted the focus on Freemasonry back from corporate structure, to the teachings which, as you are only too well aware, are some 350 plus years old. They streamlined membership services by introducing Grand view, an American system. Masonic Homes assets were liquidated and a new philanthropic arm, Masonic Charities, currently valued at around $67 million was established; committees were coordinated to current thinking; websites and facebook were updated; online membership applications were introduced; communications became hybrid, thus increasing equity and access to all members throughout out our vast constitution, to decision making. Simultaneously, they rebuilt the subtending corporate structure. The result is that the Freemasons in SA and the NT are on the cusp of a 7% increase in NET membership. I am very proud of them and thank them, not only for being here tonight at their own expense, but also for the gift of their professional strengths, strong skill sets, organizational abilities, valuable time and leadership experience to Freemasonry. I appreciate that the opportunity cost to all has been enormous. Thank you.
Finally, please let me state my heartfelt thanks to my wife Norma who has supported me totally through this journey. We have been married for the same number of years as I have been a Freemason. TGAOTU has been very kind to both of us and our family. I was pleased to involve my family in my Installation as Grand Master of the Freemasons of SA and the NT in April 2018. My Daughter Sonja and Daughter-law Kate delivered the keynote speech at the Banquet.
Lou Holtz once wrote:
“Ability is what you’re capable of doing.
Motivation determines what you do.
Attitude determines how well you do it”.
Over 60 years, I have seen Freemasonry fall in numbers. However, its teachings are as relevant to the men of today as they were almost 400 years ago; we are the current custodians.
Tonight, I sense that the resurgence in interest has begun in earnest. We are all alert to the current corporate governance requirements, have actioned them, and now begun our long journey of repositioning Freemasonry, that wonderful fellowship described in our ritual books, back to its pre-eminent position in society. “We invest in people: they matter and we care”.
Brethren, tonight I am surrounded by men all of whom are have ability, motivation and a positive and progressive attitude.
Thank you for this 60 year Jewel.
May TGAOTU bless you all.
MWBro Dr Neil Jensen
Grand Master Freemasons of SA and the NT
PM Aramac Lodge Central West of Queensland