Freemasonry has been associated with the British discovery and settlement of New South Wales from the very beginning. Joseph Banks, the naturalist who sailed into Botany Bay with James Cook in 1770; Thomas Lucas, a Private in the Marine Corps who arrived with the First Fleet; Thomas Prior, a First Fleet convict, and Matthew Flinders, who arrived in 1795, have been identified with Freemasonry.

In 1797, the Grand Lodge of Ireland, meeting in Dublin, received a petition from Privates George Kerr, Peter Farrell and George Black requesting a warrant to form a Masonic Lodge in the New South Wales Corps serving at Port Jackson. The matter was deferred and no warrant was issued.

In 1802, Captain Anthony Fenn Kemp of the New South Wales Corps received a certificate of admission at a meeting held on board one of the French ships of the exploration fleet at anchor in Port Jackson.

Sir Henry Browne Hayes, an Irish convict, attempted to form a Lodge in 1803 in defiance of an order from Governor King. He did not try again even though he later formed a friendship with Lachlan Macquarie, the first of many Governors to be members of the Masonic fraternity.

It was common practice at this time for Masonic Lodges to be formed on board naval vessels and within regiments of the British Army and for Freemasonry to be practiced wherever the ship or regiment was stationed.

The 46th Regiment of Foot, which arrived in 1814, had attached to it the Lodge of Social and Military Virtues No. 227, Irish Constitution. The 48th Regiment with Lodge No. 218, Irish Constitution, replaced this regiment in 1817. It was this Lodge that granted dispensation to form the first Lodge in Sydney in 1820 at a time when the total population of the colony was only 30,000. This Lodge, with just twelve foundation members, was called the Australian Social Lodge and was issued with warrant No. 260 by the Grand Lodge of Ireland. The Lodge still meets in Sydney as Lodge Antiquity No. 1 on the register of the United Grand Lodge of New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.

Four years later, The Leinster Marine Lodge of Australia No. 266, Irish Constitution, was formed in Sydney and, in due course, other Lodges were warranted, not only by the Grand Lodge of Ireland but also by the United Grand Lodge of England, in Sydney, in 1828 and the Grand Lodge of Scotland, in Melbourne, in 1844.

From the early years of the nineteenth century, the free settlers had sought some measure of political self-determination, which resulted in the establishment of a Legislative Council in New South Wales in 1824, due largely to the work of Bro. William Charles Wentworth.

This, in turn, led the Freemasons to seek local control of their Masonic affairs, which resulted in a number of attempts to form local Grand Lodges independent from the parent bodies in Britain.

The Grand Lodges of England, Ireland and Scotland in particular, strenuously opposed such a move and it was not until 1877 that mainly the Irish Lodges in the colony formed the Grand Lodge of New South Wales. The first Grand Master was the Hon. James Squire Farnell, at the time the Premier of New South Wales, who had previously been Provincial Grand Master for New South Wales of the Irish Constitution.

There was a similar line of Masonic development in Victoria, which resulted in the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Victoria in 1883 with the Hon. George Selth Coppin, a Member of the Legislative Assembly, as the first Grand Master.

Eventually, the other colonies each formed a Grand Lodge with South Australia leading in 1884, Tasmania in 1890, Western Australia in 1900 and Queensland in 1904.

United Grand Lodges were established in New South Wales in 1888, Victoria in 1889 and Queensland in 1921.

Some of those involved, just as Bros Farnell and Coppin had been, were members of the Legislature with the Right Hon. Sir Samuel James Way, Kt., D.C.L., LL.D., Chief Justice and a former Member of the House of Assembly as the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of South Australia and the Hon. Sir William John Clarke, Kt., LL.D., a Member of the Legislative Council as the first Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of Victoria.

The first Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Tasmania was Bro. Dr. Edward Owen Giblin who was a Member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly.

The Pro. Grand Master at the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Western Australia was the Hon. Sir John Winthrop Hackett, K.C.M.G., M.A., LL.D., who was a Member of Western Australia's Legislative Council.