No. 36 District of the U.G.L. of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory is comprised of 8 lodges, of which 7 are based within the Sutherland Shire, meeting at either Cronulla or Sutherland Masonic Centres. Only one of its lodges, Lodge Helensburgh, is not geographically located within this area, meeting at the Helensburgh Masonic Centre.
Sutherland Shire is justly proud of the fact that, within its boundaries, is the famous spot known as The Birthplace of Australia. No. 36 District is equally proud that its territory has direct Masonic links with the early days of the Colony.
Although Captain Cook landed at Kurnell on 28th April, 1770, it is not known whether he, or any of his crew, was a Mason. Therefore, it cannot be said with authority that this was the introduction of Freemasonry into this area.
However, on 30th March, 1796, two men and a boy sailed into the Port Hacking River, after exploring the near southern coast of Sydney. Their names, George Bass and Matthew Flinders, are now famous in Australian History. It has been established beyond doubt that Flinders was a Mason, and certain evidence has been produced to confirm that George Bass was also a Craftsman; thus it may be said that we may claim this date as the first contact with Freemasonry in the area. Both these gentlemen were endowed with the principles of a kindred spirit and a lasting friendship, two characteristics which are the pillars of the foundation of our order.
Bass and Flinders must have been enthralled by the beauty which they encountered-the virgin forests, the rivers, bays and inlets; perhaps in some way reminding them of the peace and tranquillity of a Masonic Lodge. Could they have imagined how this would all be changed in the future years, and how firmly established this wonderful Order of ours would be?
Passing over a period of 117 years, a meeting was held in 1913 for the purpose of forming a lodge at Helensburgh. Unfortunately, the movement was abandoned and Helensburgh missed the opportunity of being the Mother Lodge of the District.
The next move came in 1916, in the settlement of Cronulla and surrounding districts. Service by train and steam tram, with motor cars more or less a novelty, the transport difficulties probably would have deterred even the most ardent Mason from journeying across the river to Hurstville.
In that year, however, the Brethren living in Cronulla decided they would like to establish a Lodge there. A meeting was called under the guidance of Wor. Bro. Henry Tonkin, and it was agreed that a Charter be sought for the new Lodge, to be called Cronulla.
Henry Tonkin was a much loved man in the district, being the headmaster of the Cronulla Public School. He was quite a personality and had much Masonic experience, having been Master of Lodge Hillgrove on two occasions, and Secretary of the Lodge for 13 years. Not surprisingly, he was selected as Master of the new lodge. When he had been transferred to Sydney, he had affiliated with Lodge Hurstville and that Lodge willingly agreed to sponsor the newcomer to the Caft.
No. 36 District, therefore, pays tribute to Lodge Hurstville for taking this action and so assisting in the formation of our District.