News & Events

Efforts to improve men’s health and wellbeing in Far North Queensland have been backed by the region’s Freemasons. Earlier this month a new Men’s Shed was officially opened at Holloways Beach.

The Carpentaria Freemasons and Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland each contributed $27.5k last year to help to bring this important community initiative to fruition.

Carpentaria District Board of Benevolence Acting Chairman Bob Lackey said this community effort, will ensure more men in Far North Queensland have a dedicated space where they can go to enhance their mental and physical health.

“As a fraternal organisation, we know the ripple effect that camaraderie and a sense of purpose can have on a person’s mental and physical health, which is why we were so keen to support this local Men’s Shed initiative.”

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said support for programs and services that address men’s mental and physical health is part of the organisation’s long-term strategic focus.

“Having a relaxed space, where men can not only build things, but build relationships and share their feelings will be hugely positive – not just for them, but for their families and the wider community as a whole,” Gary said.

“Many lives will be impacted for the better thanks to this new Men’s Shed at Holloways Beach. By teaming up with the Carpentaria Freemasons, we have been able to support this important local initiative,” he said.

Photo: Carpentaria Deputy District Grand Master Raja Chohan, Gregory Allan Lodge Chaplain and Men’s Shed member Keith Morgan, President of the Board of Benevolence for Carpentaria District Duncan Walker and Gregory Allan Lodge Almoner and Men’s Shed member John Cavill-Jones.

Find out more about the Carpentaria District Freemasons

Changing the way men talk about their mental health is the mission of Freemason charity Hand Heart Pocket’s latest Grassroots Community Grants recipient. 

Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland has announced it will give $10,000 to the Dr Edward Koch Foundation to host a forum promoting men’s mental health. The forum will take place in Far North Queensland during Suicide Prevention Week, which runs from 6th – 12th September 2019.

Now in its second year, the forum encourages men to look out for each other and seek help when they need it.

Local Freemasons from the Temple Memorial Masonic Lodge nominated the foundation because of its commitment to making a positive difference in the community.

“We know men don’t always talk about their health concerns or ask for help when they need it most,” Temple Memorial Masonic Lodge Secretary Ken Sagacio said.

“We wanted to give a hand up to a local group working hard to empower men to take control of their wellbeing. The men’s forum provides a safe place to start important conversations that will ultimately help men lead better lives.”

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said Hand Heart Pocket’s long-term strategy included a key focus on men’s mental and physical health.

“Grassroots activities that provide education, awareness and support for men struggling with their mental health strongly align with our values as an organisation,” Mr Mark said.

“We’re delighted to support the men’s forum and help the Dr Edward Koch Foundation improve the lives of men living in the local community.”

The Dr Edward Koch Foundation’s men’s forum is one of six community initiatives across Queensland that will share in more than $50,000 in funding as part of Hand Heart Pocket’s 2019 Grassroots Community Grants round.

Photo: (Left to Right) Temple Memorial Masonic Lodge Past Master Colin Lawson, Dr Edward Koch Foundation Chairman Graham Koch and CEO Dulcie Bird, Temple Memorial Masonic Lodge Master Earle Church and Secretary Ken Sagacio, and Temple Memorial Masonic Lodge Past Master and Past District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of Carpentaria Phil Starr.

Find out more about the Carpentaria District Freemasons

Far North Queenslanders affected by cancer will now be able to access additional support services to improve their quality of life following the official opening of the COUCH Wellness Centre in Cairns this week.

Representatives of the Carpentaria District Freemasons and Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland were among those in attendance to celebrate the opening of stage one of the development.

The milestone was particularly special for the Masonic fraternity as Hand Heart Pocket, in consultation with the Carpentaria District Freemasons, had provided a half-a-million-dollar Significant Grant towards the initial stage of construction for a large conference pavilion and an amenities block.

Once complete the health precinct, which is the first of its kind for the Cairns region, will deliver services that provide a holistic approach to cancer care, to improve the quality of life for people living with cancer (and beyond) as well as their carers. The services will include allied health and complementary therapies, as well as a focus on skills and education on how to live with cancer, group support and other well-being and beauty services.

District Grand Master Henry Condon said it feels like it was only yesterday that they were at the sod turning.

“We are so excited to be on this journey with COUCH to ensure people impacted by cancer in the region can access holistic support to improve their overall health and wellbeing,” Henry said.

“For the first time they will be able to remain close to home while receiving the care and support that they need in a unique rainforest environment. The local Freemasons couldn’t be prouder to be associated with this regional initiative,” he said.

The vision to develop a wellness centre in Far North Queensland was first spearheaded by the Woodward family, back in 2006 when Charlie and Pip Woodward founded the cancer carer charity COUCH. Two years later, the wider Woodward family donated a 2.5-hectare property on Reservoir Rd, Manoora. For over a decade COUCH has rallied the government, wider community and private donors to get behind the project.

COUCH Chair Ron Holden said that the opening of the COUCH Wellness Centre facility demonstrates what can be achieved when we work together.

“We would like to express our sincere thanks to all those that helped to get this project off the ground to enhance the lives of people impacted with cancer – particularly the Carpentaria District Freemasons and Hand Heart Pocket.”

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark explained why they took an interest in supporting the initiative on behalf of the Freemasons of Queensland.

“In 2017, we came on board to provide a hand up with the COUCH Wellness Centre because their goals aligned with our long-term charitable focus, in terms of alleviating suffering and empowering people to lead better lives,” Gary said.

“Also, Gordon and Jack Woodward and their father Charles (Snr), were instrumental in the early development of the Carpentaria Freemasons’ Homes and Woodward Retirement Village in the 1970s and 1980s, both formerly owned by Masonic Care Queensland – so it a way for us to continue supporting Masonic charity in the District.”

“We were moved to see the Centre in action and are confident the families that walk through these doors in the years to come will be in the best hands,” he said.

Photo: COUCH Chairman Ron Holden, COUCH Co-founder Pip Woodward, Carpentaria District Grand Master Henry Condon, Carpentaria Deputy District Grand Master Raja Chohan, Rani Chohan, Helen Sims, Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark, Carpentaria Freemason Alan Sims and Hand Heart Pocket Board Member Spencer Christensen.

Find out more about COUCH

The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Far North Queensland will take to the skies with $10,800 worth of new medical equipment donated by Murray Masonic Lodge, with the help of members of the District of Carpentaria and Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland.

Murray Masonic Lodge Worshipful Master Alan Sims said rural and remote communities are heavily reliant on this service for their primary healthcare as well as in times of a medical emergency.

“Whether it’s a checkup or an emergency evacuation, you know you’re in good hands when the RFDS is involved,” Alan said.

“Fifteen years ago, my grandson was transported to Brisbane in a critical condition. Then in September last year, my son Greg was medevaced from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the intensive care unit at the Cairns Base Hospital. So our family as well as many remote families know full well the life-saving role that the RFDS plays in our community,” he said.

Last financial year, the four aircraft at the Cairns base collectively covered over 989,000 km.

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said that by partnering with Murray Masonic Lodge they were able to increase the impact of their charity work at a grassroots level.

“This is about giving the RFDS a hand up, to empower them to continue providing essential services that alleviate suffering – something which they’ve been doing for over 90 years,” Gary said.

Photo: Donal Watters, Medical Officer, Robert Lackey, President District Board of Benevolence, Marty Hurst, Pilot, Carpentaria District Grand Master, Henry Condon, Leanne Hill, Flight Nurse Manager, Charlton Campbell, State Operations Manager, Adam Clegg, Engineering manager, Alan Sims, Murray Lodge Master and Daryl Goh, Medical Intern.

Find out more about the Carpentaria District Freemasons

The local Meals on Wheels in Mareeba has been served up a new meat slicer by Granite Masonic Lodge.

With the help of Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland, the Mareeba Freemasons donated $1,353 for the new piece of equipment to be purchased.

Lodge representative Roy Blakeney said they were thrilled to make the donation.

“A new meat slicer will allow time to be shaved off food preparation, pardon the pun,” he said.

“It’s great that our donation will give Meals on Wheels volunteers time to do other important jobs like drop off the food and have a chat to the people they deliver to.”

“Meals on Wheels is a charity that so many people in the region rely on, so we thought it was important to support them,” he said.

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said Granite Masonic Lodge took the lead with this initiative which aligns with one of the organisation’s strategic focuses to support our ageing population.

“It’s fantastic that the local Freemasons want to help an organisation that gives a hand up to isolated members in the community, which is why Hand Heart Pocket was quick to assist with a Dollar for Dollar Grassroots Grant to increase their total donation to Meals on Wheels,” Gary said.

Photo: Granite Masonic Lodge representatives Roy Blakeney (third from right) and Kevin Clarke (first from right) with Mareeba Meals on Wheels volunteers and cook Leanne Wallace (centre). 

Find out more about the Carpentaria District Freemasons

Visitors wanting to stay by the bedside of a loved one at Atherton Hospital, won’t have to worry about their sleeping arrangements after the Yungaburra Freemasons gifted a new overnight recliner lounge.

Barrine Masonic Lodge along with Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland donated $3,200 towards the lounge, which by day is a normal two-seater recliner, that can be converted into a double bed at night.

What’s also unique about the lounge is that each side operates independently of each other, with a total of nine different positions to provide optimal comfort.

Barrine Lodge representative Bob Jessop said the donation would allow visitors to focus on their loved one and spend quality time with them.

“It’s one less thing for them to worry about – especially for someone keeping a bedside vigil,” Bob said.

“The lounge fits perfectly in the rooms and can be wheeled around depending on where it is needed at the time,” he said.

“We’re pleased to be able to make a difference in this way, to help create a comfortable environment where families can remain close to their loved ones while they are in hospital,” he said.

Atherton Hospital serves a large remote area of the Tablelands, accessible to around 45,000 residents.

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said alleviating suffering and empowering people to lead better lives was what they championed.

“Improving the quality of life of patients at Atherton Hospital, by allowing them to have their loved ones nearby in a comfortable manner aligns with our purpose which is to provide sustainable support that delivers positive outcomes,” Gary said.

“It’s been our pleasure to have matched the efforts of Barrine Masonic Lodge in support of with this worthy local initiative,” he said.

Photo: Barrine Masonic Lodge Freemasons Mil Clay, Bob Jessop and Bruce Herriot (seated), with Atherton Hospital’s Joyde Peterson (standing, centre back row) and Louise DeMarzi (seated).

Find out more about the Carpentaria District Freemasons

Drought-affected communities have again received a hand-up from the Masons of the Far North, who together with Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland and Masonic Lodges throughout the state, have donated $1.45 million in the last four years.

Hand Heart Pocket’s latest initiative, the Drought Disaster Relief Appeal, saw the charity donate an additional two dollars for every one dollar donated by its members and Masonic Lodges, meaning that the Carpentaria Freemasons’ $10,133 contribution has been tripled to $30,399.

Carpentaria District Grand Master Henry Condon said they knew that by supporting the Appeal, their contribution would go further.

“So many Freemasons in the region wanted to get involved and help struggling families and communities,” Henry said.

“We’re grateful we’ve been able to raise so much, and thanks to the hard work and dedication of Far North Queensland locals, drought-affected Queenslanders will be given more help in their time of need,” he said.

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said the response has been amazing.

“We are grateful to the Carpentaria Freemasons for their efforts,” Gary said.

“Freemasons across the state have rallied to make a significant contribution towards providing a hand-up for drought-affected families and communities – collectively contributing $450,000 with Hand Heart Pocket over the past six weeks.This takes the total funds distributed over the last four years, on behalf of Freemasons, to $1.45 million, this is an extraordinary effort across our membership”.

With this money, Hand Heart Pocket will provide Eftpos cards to be distributed through its partners on the ground so that funds can get to where they are needed most, helping to put food on the table and pay for essential bills.

“We’ll be working with the Western Drought Appeal and their associated distribution channels, the Rural Financial Counselling Service, Queensland Education and the School of Distant Education parent support group to distribute the Eftpos cards to where they are needed most,” said Gary.

Find out more about the Charity of Freemasons Queensland


Freemasons of the Carpentaria District spent three days at the Cairns Show in July educating locals about one of the world’s oldest fraternities.

With the Cairns Show drawing crowds of over 80,000 people, many visited the Lodge’s stand to discover the history, mission and positive work of Freemasons and their associated charity Hand Heart Pocket. 

Alan Sims, a Far North Queensland Freemason, said their stand was successful in showcasing Freemasons to the community. 

“We talked to so many people about who we are and what we do.  The Freemasons have such a rich history and valuable mission to share,” Alan said.

“Freemasonry is so much more than secret handshakes and performing ancient rituals behind closed doors. It’s about empowering men to be their best through self-development, mentoring and charity,” Alan said.

“The show was a great opportunity to highlight and muster support for the charitable work Freemasons do in the region.”

From the Royal Flying Doctors Service to local aged care facilities, Far North Queensland Lodges have raised funds for a range of causes.  In 2017, Hand Heart Pocket consulted with the Carpentaria Freemasons before contributing half-a-million dollars to the development of the COUCH Wellbeing Centre. 

Alan said the benevolent work of Freemasons spans across the globe.

“There are Lodges scattered all over Far North Queensland, Australia and the world,” he said.

“Men of good standing, who are over the age of 18 and believe in a higher being are eligible to enquire about becoming a Freemason.”

Photo: Freemasons of the Carpentaria District at the Cairns Show spoke to locals about the history, mission and work of Freemasons.

Find out more about the Freemasons of the Carpentaria District

Find out more about Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland


Since the mid-1990s, children with hearing loss in Cairns have been empowered to reach their full learning potential with the support of Queensland charity, Hear and Say.

On a recent visit to meet with families in the Far North as part of their Telepractice program, clinicians from the organisation also made time to meet with the local Freemasons, to share how a state-wide grant for half-a-million-dollars from Hand Heart Pocket the Charity of Freemasons Queensland is making a difference on the ground.

The grant, handed over earlier this year, will help to cover the funding gap to deliver critical early intervention services, ensuring continuity of support for deaf children throughout Queensland for the next year – till the full financial impact of the National Disability Insurance Scheme is known in late 2018.

Carpentaria District Grand Master Henry Condon said hearing directly from the Listening and Spoken Language Specialists that deliver this life-changing support to local children was invaluable.

“It’s not until you speak with those at the coalface that you get a true understanding of the impact this state-wide grant is having on children in our community,” Henry said.

“We were pleasantly surprised to learn that Hear and Say’s Telepractice service has been proven to be just as effective as receiving face-to-face support, considering that this is how many families in the Far North access these vital programs,” he said.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled that this grant, which was made on behalf of the Freemasons of Queensland, will contribute towards efforts to empower children with hearing difficulty, not just in our community but throughout the state, to hear, listen and speak and go on to lead independent lives like their typically hearing peers,” said Henry.

Collectively, the grant will mean that 200 children across the state will continue to have access to Hear and Say’s Audiology Services, and 300 children can take part in the Early Intervention Program.

Hear and Say Chief Executive Officer Chris McCarthy stressed how important essential listening and spoken language therapy is to a child’s development.

“It can take up to six years to teach a profoundly deaf child to listen, process language, and speak, using the latest technology and an Auditory-Verbal Therapy approach, so it’s vital that our services remain accessible – for children to be ready for mainstream schooling,” Mr McCarthy said.

“We are extremely grateful for this funding from Hand Heart Pocket. Without this, Queensland children could miss out on vital services and programs that build their potential.”

“We also thank the local Freemasons for their show of support for our local Hear and Say, families. It truly means a lot to them to know the local Freemasons are supportive of the grant.”

Hand Heart Pocket Chief Executive Officer Gary Mark said providing sustainable support to charitable initiatives that have limited access to other funding sources was the organisation’s focus.

“Our values are centred around empowering people to lead better lives,” Mr Mark said.

“Support for education initiatives for children with a disability aligns with Hand Heart Pocket’s long-term strategy, and we are delighted that this partnership is enabling more children in the Far North and throughout Queensland to have a future which will not be limited by their hearing loss.”

Photo: Carpentaria District Grand Master Henry Condon, Hear and Say, Clinical Manager – Listening and Spoken Language Jessica Balfour-Ogilvy, Hear and Say, Acting Senior Clinician Amy Russell and Carpentaria Deputy District Grand Master Raja Chohan.

Find out who Hand Heart Pocket helps

Each quarter, Freemasons from around the District get together to report on their activities and achievements and to discuss their plans for the future.

Photo: The Carpentaria District Freemasons Board of General Purposes (from left) RW Bro Carl Richardson PAGM DistGSec, VW Bro Herman Kleiner DistSGW,  RW Bro Henry Condon DistGM, RW Bro Bob Lackey PAGM Pres DistBoGP, VW Bro Lex Livingston DistGTreas, VW Bro Chris McClelland DistJGW,  Wor Bro Julian Brown DistGReg and RW Bro Lyndon Brandt PAGM IPDistGM.

Find out more about the Freemasons of Carpentaria

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