No goats, just brotherhood and support

When Andrew Power joined his local Freemasons lodge four months ago at the sprightly age of 38, it had a noticeable effect on the group’s demographic.

Speaking at the organisation’s quarterly communication at the Ulumbarra Theatre on Wednesday, Mr Power revealed he was “towards the younger end” of the lodge’s age range.

“The average age dropped from, I think around 78 years of age down to about 74, just by me joining,” he said.

“Now that said, my lodge isn't indicative of all lodges, there are lodges where the average age is about 38, and you get guys who are 18, 19, 20.”

But in recent years those younger faces have been relatively uncommon within the 300 year old fraternal order, and it is something the organisation is looking to address.

There’s nothing to do with goats and everything to do with brotherhood and support. - Andrew Power

Freemasons Victoria grand master Don Reynolds said by opening itself up more to outsiders and emphasising the brotherhood’s male peer support role and charity work, it was hoped to attract some new blood.

“The organisation, 50 per cent of it is 70 years plus, if we are looking toward the future, and we are, then we need to make it contemporary for the younger set,” he said.

“We’re looking towards maybe doing something different, certainly opening it up and talking about our good work in the community is one of them.”

After a career in the military, Mr Power was introduced to Freemasonry by a friend and said the fraternity provided companionship and a social outlet he had struggled to find in civilian life.

“I started to ask him questions and he said ‘well why don’t you come along to one of the dinner evenings we have?’ and I went along to it and saw immediately the connection was so similar to the military,” he said.

“There was this brotherhood that was accepting, a complete room of strangers welcoming you in and I thought ‘this is amazing’.”

Mr Power said his introduction to the erstwhile secret society had also helped dispel a few myths.

“There is no goats in Freemasonry, I don’t know if I’m supposed to tell you that but that’s one of the secrets right there, there’s nothing to do with goats and everything to do with brotherhood and support,” he said.

No girls allowed

While some of the shroud of secrecy surrounding Freemasonry has been lifted in recent times as the organisation opens itself up to new members, one thing has not changed.

Women are still not allowed to join.

But with the help of newly-appointed chief executive Jane Sydenham Clarke, the brotherhood is making an effort to include women in all but the most closely guarded meetings.

Just two weeks into the job, Ms Sydenham Clarke said despite not being allowed to become official members, women played a critical role in the masonic community.

“Women are enabling these good men to do all the fantastic work that’s happening out in the field – so much I didn't know about, so much fantastic community work, so much beautiful ritual and ceremony,” she said.

Kali Power, whose husband Andrew joined the order four months ago, said while she participated in many of the group’s social activities, it was appropriate for the men to have some time to themselves.

“I think it’s really important that guys still have that time because I find that men are more socially isolated than women, because as mothers or friends we go out and socialise whereas guys don’t,” she said.

“I just love that he’s involved in this and he’s got that time for himself, but we also get to do stuff as a family.”

Ms Power said joining the group had given her husband a renewed sense of purpose.

“It’s igniting in Andrew new things that I haven't seen in a long time.”

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