Senate debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021


Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing

7:35 pm

Photo of Andrew McLachlanAndrew McLachlan (SA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There is something exciting taking place in South Australia. It's another initiative that cements my state as the leader in medical research. It'll be of interest to my friends in the Northern Territory. The Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing is a research alliance involving the masonic charities, the University of Adelaide and SAHMRI in South Australia.

The South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, SAHMRI, is South Australia's first independent health and medical research institute and home to more than 700 medical researchers. On Monday 8 February, I attended the official launch of this alliance, which was gracefully conducted by His Excellency the Hon. Hugh Van Lay, the Governor of South Australia. The centre has two divisions. There is one in South Australia and the other in the Northern Territory. The centre is the evolution of the Freemasons Foundation Centre for Men's Health, which was established in 2007, and is maintained through a $7.2 million partnership between the Freemasons Foundation and the University of Adelaide. Going forward, the centre will continue to be supported by the Masonic Charities, the new charitable arm of Freemasons South Australia and the Northern Territory, capably chaired by Mr John Behenna.

The organisation has committed to donating a minimum of $1.8 million over three years to the centre. They are funds that will be matched collectively by the research alliance partners. The centre brings together a multidisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers, undertaking research, delivering programs and preventing and treating conditions that continue to contribute to ill health and premature death in males. The conditions include prostate cancer and preconception health, as well as other particular conditions affecting men, such as obesity, diabetes, depression and sexual health.

The three partners are seeking to work together to tackle the biggest health challenges in society today. The entities have a natural alignment of values, which come together in the centre's mission statement. In summary, the mission statement says, 'Through benevolence, leadership and partnership, the centre will enable and undertake outstanding male health and wellbeing research.' This includes generating significant new knowledge, embracing innovation, advancing health and wellbeing education and seeking to have an enduring impact on individuals, families and communities.

Two speeches delivered at the opening particularly resonated with me. The chairman of the board, Dr Neil Jensen, spoke of the importance of the benevolence to Freemasons. He said that Freemasons are taught to be ever alert to the needs of others and to promote happiness. He saw the centre as an iteration of the desire for a better tomorrow. He said, 'Through the work of the centre see our great masonic family providing tangible help for our fellow citizens—men, women and children.' Professor Gary Wittert of the centre acknowledged the now 13-year history of the centre and the major investment of the University of Adelaide and the Freemasons South Australia and the Northern Territory, through the Freemasons Foundation and now Masonic Charities. He emphasised their incredible support and commitment that has led to the success and growth of the centre from originally a handful of researchers to now more than 50 researchers. All of the speeches embraced the theme of the importance in life of seeking knowledge to better the lives of others.

Along with my Northern Territory friends, I am proud that Australia's only multidisciplinary male health research centre calls South Australia and the Northern Territory home. I congratulate all those who have brought the Freemasons Centre for Male Health and Wellbeing to life.