Members of military regiments serving in New South Wales and Tasmania brought Freemasonry to Australia. The first South Australian lodge was consecrated as the Lodge of Friendship under the Grand Lodge of England in 1834 at the headquarters of the South Australian Association in London. The first meeting in Adelaide was in 1838. Early members included William Giles, Robert Gouger, Governor George Grey, Richard Hanson, George Strickland Kingston, Charles Mann, John Morphett and Emanuel Solomon. The first lodge in South Australia under the Scottish constitution, Adelaide St Johns Lodge, was consecrated in 1844. The first lodge under the Irish constitution, the Duke of Leinster Lodge, was consecrated in 1856.
Freemasonry expanded rapidly in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1884 the provincial grand lodges of the three constitutions came together to form the Grand Lodge of Antient, Free and Accepted Masons of South Australia, with a membership of 30 lodges. This was the first grand lodge to be formed in Australia. The first grand master was the chief justice, Sir Samuel Way. The Freemasons Hall (now the Masonic Centre) in North Terrace was opened in 1927. Freemasons have been prominent in South Australian politics, business, churches and the legal profession. They have also engaged in charitable work. Aged care accommodation at the Masonic Memorial Village in Somerton Park was commenced in 1965. The Masonic Foundation, established in 1989, supports educational scholarships, lodge-sponsored charitable projects and research in the area of men’s health.
Membership in South Australia reached its highest level, about 28 000, in 1961. Since then, as with many other tradition-oriented organisations, it has declined substantially. In recent years Freemasonry has discarded much of its cloak of secrecy by advertising itself with an annual Masonic Awareness Week and publicising its charities. Its website is http://www.santfreemasons.org.au.