Canberra Chapter


  • Charter granted by the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland on 11th October 1930.
  • Instituted on 14th June 1930 as Canberra Chapter No 329.
  • Governing Level was initially Sydney District Grand Chapter until the formation of the Grand Chapter of NSW (28/4/1951).  Canberra Chapter then moved to the jurisdiction of the Grand Chapter of NSW on 14th December 1951.
  • In 1985, when The United Grand Chapter of Australia was instituted, Canberra Chapter became No 052 and under the jurisdiction of Southern District Grand Chapter.
  • Southern District Grand Chapter became dormant on 9th August 2014, and Canberra returned as outwith to the now Grand Chapter of NSW & ACT.
  • Canberra Chapter No 52 became dormant in 2016 and amalgamated with Fraser Chapter No 192 to form Capital Chapter No 52 on 26th November 2016.


1930 – 1980

Canberra Chapter is one of which we can be justly proud, for it not only has existed these many years, but assisted in the institution of Goulburn, Wagga Wagga, Bega, Fraser and Moruya Chapters.

To give its full history would be a book in itself, but it is important to note its beginning.

A rather unique meeting was held in Canberra on December 14, 1929, the second one of its kind held in Australia, when Brother D McLeish, our esteemed WDGP and Brother W Hamilton, PWDGP, with the authority cabled from the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland, conferred the degrees at sight on 17 new candidates.  They were assisted by Sister Harrop PM of Randwick Chapter, acting as Worthy Matron and Conductress.

Sister Warren was recommended for the position of Worthy Matron and Brother Robert Stevenson as Worthy Patron and Canberra Chapter was constituted of June 14, 1930, at the Albert Hall.

The first regular meeting was held in the Friendly Societies Hall, Kingston, on Saturday, July 12, 1930.  Prior to the opening of the Chapter, the new carpet, recently arrived from Scotland, was unrolled and dedicated by Rev. Owen, of the Presbyterian Church, Canberra.

In the early years of this Chapter, money was raised by holding card evenings, dances and rug making.  Many enjoyable picnics were held at the Cotter River: races, games, contests and cricket were played by the members and their friends.

Dues were 1/6 per month in 1930 and 2/- in 1938.  The Building Fund was inaugurated at the meeting of March 11, 1950 with Brother John Charlton making the first donation.

Two representatives were sent to Sydney for the formation of Grand Chapter of N.S.W. – Sisters Florence Goodin and Mary Stevenson, PWMs.

For many years Canberra Chapter supported the Senior Citizens by serving their members with afternoon teas.  Hospital canteen duty has been carried out since 1963, many Sisters devoted their services to this worthy cause.

Catering was organised and ably carried out for many years, raising $10,600 – a wonderful contribution to the Building Fund.

Honour was given to Sisters Mary Stevenson, Beatrice Propsting, Jean Hore and Joy McKellar, who have served as Points for the Grand Chapter  and Brother Tom Graham as Grand Senior Chaplain.

Sister Edna Wetherly held the position of Treasurer in the Chapter for 34 years and Sister Vi Wilkinson was Secretary for 17 years; a wonderful record and worthy of a place in our history.

Our Sisters and Brothers have brought honour to this Chapter.  Three Sisters and one Brother have been Founder Matrons and Patrons of other Chapters.  Many have been Worthy Matrons and Patrons of Chapters throughout Australia and overseas.

1980 – 1990

The Golden Jubilee of Canberra Chapter was celebrated on Saturday, June 14, 1980 in the Wesley Hall, Uniting Church Centre, Forrest when 233 members of the Order were present.  The meeting was followed by a dinner in the Lancaster Hall and a Church Service on Sunday, June 15, 1980 in the Holy Cross Church of England, Hackett.  The celebrations also included a Dinner for Canberra Chapter members at the Red Door Restaurant.

In the 10 years since the Golden Jubilee, Canberra Chapter has donated $19,475.93 to Charities in the ACT.  The Worthy Matron selecting a particular charity each year.  The Hospital Kiosk duty had continued at Canberra Hospital and members enjoy being able to help the hospital in this way.

This 10 year period had brought joy and sadness, with many of our old and dear members passing to a Higher Chapter.  Sister Violet Wilkinson celebrated 50 years in the Order in September, 1983, but passed to a Higher Chapter in December, 1987.

On the lighter side, the members have enjoyed bus trips to Port Kembla, Gosford, Campbelltown, Malvern, Croydon Park, Katoomba, Melbourne, Dubbo, Manly and Bendigo.  This year the Chapter members are off to Great Lakes Chapter in July.  The Annual Ball has become a combined social event with Fraser Chapter and this year we will celebrate our 21st Annual Ball.

Four of our members have been honoured as Grand Points, Sisters Joan Grallelis, Agnes Graham, June Barrett and Aileen McDonald, two of these Sisters are now PWDGMs, one is DGAM and Sister June Barrett is the present WDGM of the Southern District Grand Chapter.

During this 10 year period, Canberra Chapter has attended the Institution of Hume and Young Chapters.  The Chapter organised a bus trip to attend the Inauguration of the United Grand Chapter of Australia in June, 1985, which was a highlight of this decade.  After the inauguration of the United Grand Chapter of Australia , Canberra Chapter was honoured by the members of the Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland visiting at their June meeting.  MWGM Sister Anne Brown and MWGP Brother James Kerr accompanied by Sister Mary Shirkie WG Secretary and other office-bearers.  Also with the distinguished visitors were 11 members of the Order from New Zealand. Also in 1985 the Southern District Grand Chapter was Instituted at Wagga Wagga when Sister Norma Lohrey was installed as the first Worthy District Grand Matron and Brother Thomas Graham, Worthy District Grand Patron, both being members of Canberra Chapter.

Two years later in 1987 some members attended the First Biennial Session of the United Grand Chapter of Australia in Brisbane and talked so much about the “Sessions” that in 1989 when Brother Thomas Graham was installed as Most Worthy Grand Patron of the United Grand Chapter of Australia, Canberra Chapter members were well represented at the “Second Sessions” in Tasmania, attending the Sessions and holidaying at the same time.

In May, 1987, we were able to have the Brothers from Queensland to visit and two excellent services were presented by them.  Christmas 1987 meeting was surprised by visitors from America and an enjoyable evening was had by all, as one of the visitors said in his speech, he came to Australia, to meet the people and he had met many “Jewels” of the Order.  The first American visitors that Canberra Chapter received was back in 1958 and I believe it was just as exciting and interesting.

During the past decade two of our Sisters have been honoured with awards, Sister Doreen Lawrence MBE in 1972 and Sister Patricia Dixon, our present Worthy Matron, an Australia Day award in 1986.

1990 – 2000

The years continued and now it is the beginning of a new century.  The past ten years have been kind to Canberra Chapter.

Following our Diamond Jubilee Meeting on 16th June, 1990 in the Wesley Uniting Church Hall, Forrest, we held a dinner in the Lancaster Hall when approximately 250 people helped us celebrate this great occasion.  On Sunday, 17th June, 1990, we entertained our visitors to morning tea in the Pensioners’ Club Hall in Civic, prior to their return to their homes.

In September, 1990 we held a further celebration of our Jubilee when we played host to over 200 members at our Country Visitors’ Meeting followed by Dinner and morning tea on the Sunday morning.  Altogether a memorable year.

Membership has fallen, unfortunately standing now at 79, but we still retain a core of dedicated members who continue to support our Chapter.  Some of our members have been called to a Higher Chapter during these years and we remember their contribution over the years.  However 50 year membership in the Order was celebrated by four members – Sisters Gladys Brown in June 1996; Doreen Lawrence PWM in September 1996; Marjorie Hansen PWM in September 1997; Jean Hore PWDGM in October 1999, and Sister Doris Weise will celebrate 68 years this year.  Congratulations to all these Sisters.

We have welcomed visitors from all States of Australia together with overseas visitors from Scotland and the USA.  In August 1994 the Worthy Matron and four of the members accepted an invitation to visit the North Island DG Chapter in New Zealand and spent a wonderful holiday and enjoyed the friendship extended by our New Zealand cousins.

An Open Meeting was held in April 1994 and was well received by all present.  We hope that our endeavours were appreciated by the Masonic Fraternity and our invited guests.

Our Coach Trip visits to other Chapters have been enjoyed by all and have included visits to Coronation, Murwillumbah, Muswellbrook and Wyong in N.S.W.; Southport and Harmony in Queensland; Footscray and Swan Hill in Victoria; and Adelaide and Sunny South in South Australia.  At Adelaide Chapter we were invited to present a Service.  As a result our Jewel Service was born and became part of Canberra Chapter.

The Chapter has been honoured by the appointment of Sister Margaret Down as WG Adah in the United Grand Chapter of Australia; Sisters Norma Lohrey and Jean Williams have served as Grand Points and Sister Margaret Down is currently serving as Grand Ruth in the Grand Chapter of NSW.  Four more of our Sisters are now PWDGMs and Sister Gwendolene Wallin is the present WDGM.  Brother Sydney Down has served this District as WDGP and is at present WGP of the Grand Chapter of NSW.

We have continued to support various charities within the A.C.T. and to date the amount of $19,489.00 has been distributed.  Added to this there have been smaller gifts donated as well as the annual food and cash contributions to the Salvation Army Christmas Appeal.

2000 – 2010

On Saturday, 10th June, 2000 we celebrated our 70th Birthday.  The Meeting was well attended by members of the Order and was followed by by a high tea held in the Wesley Hall.  A further celebration was held at our Country Visitors Meeting on Saturday 9th September, 2000 followed by a church service at St Andrews Presbyterian Church the next day.

During the past five years our membership has decreased and currently stands at 75 members.  Sadly, we have lost five PWMs, a PWP and two members, who have passed to a Higher Chapter, and we mourn their loss.  Happily, we have had two new members Initiated, six Affiliates, and one Re-admission.

From February, 2001 our meetings were changed from the second Thursday of the month at 7.30 pm to the second Saturday at 12.30 pm at the request of members who were finding it difficult to drive at night.  This was proved beneficial to most members, especially during the winter months.  Our Committee Meetings were also altered and we now meet at 1.30 pm.

We have continued to support various charities within the A.C.T. and during the period 2000 – 2004 $7,439.00 has been donated together with our annual food and cash contributions to the Salvation Army.  We have also given $300,000.00 to the Morsehead Home from the Sister Violet Wilkinson Trust Fund for six units at the Home.  A ceremony was held at the Home on 24th February, 2001 acknowledging the gift and a plaque was unveiled and dedicated to the memory of Sister Wilkinson.  A further $100,000.00 from the Trust Fund was given to the Masonic Homes at Holt for one unit in the Kalparrin Hostel.  The dedication of a plaque and the presentation of the cheque was made on 28th August, 2003.

Fifty year memberships have been celebrated by three members – Sisters Agnes Brown PWM, Norma Kindleysides PWM and Cathe Goodrick; and at our July 2003 meeting Sister Aileen McDonald PWDGM was honoured with a special service to commemorate her 60 years in the Order.  We congratulate these Sisters and thank them for their service to Canberra Chapter and the Order.

The Chapter is honoured to have Sister Margaret Down currently as Grand Associate Matron of the Grand Chapter of N.S.W. and the A.C.T. and Brother Sydney Down as Worthy Grand Fraternal Correspondent in the United Grand Chapter of Australia.  Sister Margaret Kestenbaum was Worthy District Grand Matron in 2002 – 2003.

Although we are small in number, we are big in heart, and we hope and pray that we can continue on and be able to celebrate our 80th Birthday.

Our 75th Birthday occurred in the same week as the United Grand Sessions were held in Canberra, so we had a large number of visitors from Interstate as well as from our local Chapters.  All in all we had over 200 Members at our Meeting, including our Most Worthy Grand Matron, Sister Evelyn Hood and Sister Isobel McLelland I.M.W.G.M.  The day was a little saddened by the passing to a Higher Chapter by our long standing Secretary, Sister Aileen McDonald PWDGM, just a month before, but we lovingly remembered her by using the Birthday Service originally penned by her.  The Banquet was held in the Lancaster Room at Wesley Uniting Church, Forest, and after we were hilariously entertained by Members of Fraser Chapter as well as some of our own Members.  It was a great Celebration and enjoyed by all who attended.

Our Membership in 2005 stood at 75 and at October 2009 it was 74, however we have lost 8 valued Members to a Higher Chapter and several have become Inactive. The increase came from 3 Initiaties, Sister Marcia Rees, Sister Alison Burns and Brother Robert Guth, and 12 Affiliates.  Brother Guth was the first Brother Initiated into Canberra Chapter since Brother Sydney Down in 1992.  He later served as Worthy Patron with his mother, Sister Kathrine Guth.  Several of the Affiliates came from the unfortunate closing of Hume and Wagga Wagga Chapters.

In July 2009 we held a special Service to celebrate and congratulate Members with many years of Membership.  There were 5 Members each with 60 years service, 8 with 50 or more years and 15 with more than 40 years each.  18 of these Members were able to be present to receive Commemorative Diplomas from our Most Worthy Grand Matron, Sister Lois Allen.  Sadly Sister Enid Rochow, the longest serving Member present was called to a Higher Chapter on the very next day.

We continue to hold our Meetings on Saturday at 12:30 pm and for a while we tried holding our Committee Meetings on the morning of the same day, but it was not thought successful and we reverted to holding the Committee Meetings on Wednesday at 1:30 pm in the Hamilton Room at St Andrews Church.

The Chapter continues to support various Charities in the Canberra Region and has donated $4,966.48 from fund raising and donated $2,100.00 to National Disaster Relief from the Benevolent/Distress Account as well as the usual annual donation of goods and cash to the Salvation Army.

Socially, we have enjoyed many occasions arranged by our various Social Secretaries and also other events including Southern District Grand Chapter’s 21st Birthday Picnic at Jugiong and Fraser Chapter’s ‘Wake’ at the closing of the Canberra Masonic Centre, prior to it being rebuilt.

We have been honoured with visits by each of our Most Worthy Grand Matrons and Patrons in the past 5 years as well as visits from Worthy Grand Matrons and Patrons of the Grand Chapter of NSW and ACT. We have also hosted many visits by our Worthy District Grand Matrons and Patrons of the Southern District Grand Chapter.

The Chapter was honoured to have Sister Margaret Down as Worthy Grand Matron of the Grand Chapter of NSW and ACT in 2006 with Brother Sydney Down as Worthy Grand Patron for the second time in 2007 and Brother Gary Sweeney is currently the Worthy Grand Patron. Sister Angela Sweeney was a Grand Point in 2009.  Brother Sydney Down is now the Worthy Grand Senior Chaplain of the United Grand Chapter of Australia.

Several Members have been honoured in the Southern District Grand Chapter. Sister Betty and Brother Henry Lardner were WDGM and P in 2006, Sister Gwendolene Wallin was WDGM in 2007 for the second time and Sister Yvonne and Brother Gordon Whittle were WDGM and P in 2009.

The Chapter has also been honoured by the United Grand Chapter of Australia with the appointment of Sister Margaret Down PWGM as the Representative in Australia of the Grand Chapter of Virginia in the USA Sister Margaret Kestenbaum for the Grand Chapter of Alberta in Canada, and Sister Yvonne Whittle for the Grand Chapter of North Dakota also in the USA.

As we look to Celebrate our 80th Birthday, we hope to continue for many years carried by the enthusiasm of our Members, both young and old. God keep us in the way of the lovely Star we all follow.

2010 – 2015

The last five years have been momentous for both Canberra Chapter and the Order of the Eastern Star in Australia. At the 2011-13 Biennial Sessions the Members of the United Grand Chapter of Australia voted that women of good character, who did not have Masonic qualifications, could also join the Order. Canberra Chapter was ecstatic to welcome Sister Nicole Juratowitch in 2012, who was the first such Member in Australia. Sister Kerry Down was also warmly welcomed in 2012 and Sisters Holly Shay O’Brien and Joyce Graham were warmly welcomed into Membership in 2013. Sister (Beatrice) Jean Gidley PWDGM and Brother Stephen Gidley PWDGP Affiliated with Canberra Chapter.

Unfortunately our membership suffered a number of losses with the following Members electing to go Inactive due to distance, inability to attend Meetings, illness and/or age: Sisters Gwenda Francis PWM, Janet Tinto PWM, Jean Hore PWDGM, Pamela Blome and Jane Kirpatrick.

It is with sincere sympathy and loving memories that the following Members passed to a Higher Chapter: Sisters Betty McAulay, Jan Firth PWM, Norah Booth PWM, Fae Vince PWM, Rita Storen, Agnes Currie PWM, Margery Jenkins PWM, Joyce Hynd PWM, Dorothy Allen PWM, June Barrett PWDGM, Janet Tinto PWM, Margaret McHardy PWM and Margaret Harland PWM.

Sister Agnes Brown PWM celebrated 61 year Membership of Canberra Chapter and Sister Norma Kindleysides 60 years. 2015 sees four Members celebrating 50 years Membership of Canberra Chapter; Sisters Margaret Harland PWM, Shirley Lee PWM, Joan Coyle PWM and Janet Kaine PWM. Sisters Norma Kindleysides PWM and Isabella Ross will also be celebrating their 85th Birthdays in 2015.

We have warmly welcomed many visitors to our Meetings throughout the last five years and we have enjoyed numerous visits to other Chapters with lasting friendships being made. Notably was a visit by Sister Betty Ann Adams from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, who was visiting Sister and Brother Gidley. The Members of Canberra Chapter piled into buses and cars for various road trips to Wollongong (60th Birthday), Woonona, Mayfield (80th Birthday), Hartford (100th Birthday), Lithgow Chapters and many others with lasting joyful memories.

We were graced by visits from the Most Worthy Grand Matron and Most Worthy Grand Patron and Office-bearers of the United Grand Chapter, and by the Worthy Grand Matron and Worthy Grand Patron and Office-bearers of the Grand Chapter of NSW & ACT, and the Worthy District Grand Matron and Worthy District Grand Patrons and Office-bearers of the Southern District Grand Chapter. It was with extreme sadness that the Members of the Southern District Grand Chapter elected to close the District Grand Chapter on 9th August, 2014 and the remaining three Chapters in the District (Canberra, Goulburn and Fraser Chapters) petitioned the Grand Chapter of NSW & ACT to go outwith. The Members of Canberra, Goulburn and Fraser Chapters continue to unanimously provide mutual supported with each other at Meetings and social events, “by joyful companionship and cheerful enjoyment”.

During the last five years many Members have been raised to serve in various higher capacities, most notably Brother Sydney Down who served as the Most Worthy Grand Patron 2013 – 2015. Brother Gary Sweeney served as Worthy Grand Patron in 2010 – 11, and is currently serving as Worthy Patron of Canberra Chapter, and District Grand Inspector of Works of the Region 4, District 48 of the Craft Lodge. Sister Barbara Lang is Worthy Matron of Canberra Chapter for 2015. Sister Angela Sweeney PWDGM is currently serving as Grand Martha and the Webmaster of the UGCA Order of the Eastern Star of Australia website. Sister Margaret Kestenbaum PWDGM served as Grand Ruth and the last Worthy District Grand Matron of the Southern District Grand Chapter.

Last week at the 2015 – 2017 Biennial Session, the Members elected to accept the proposal of the UG Planning Committee to restructure the Order of the Eastern Star in Australia. Canberra and Fraser Chapters formed a Planning Working Party in May 2015 to investigate and formulate a way forward for both Chapters over the next five years. Only the future will know the outcome, but with inclusive discussion, cooperation and consideration we will find a way forward for the Order of the Eastern Star in Australia and in Canberra. Here’s to our future!