The familiar sounds of a typical school morning continue to ring through Melbourne’s eastern suburb of Box Hill most Saturdays, when Freemasons, as they have for sixty years, invest their time helping students succeed in Maths and English.
The Ionic Coaching Service is the brainchild of two Freemasons from the No. 4 Master’s Group, Charlie McCord and Ray Davey, with input from Tom Perkin (who later joinied the Craft in 1953). In 1950, classes for English and Mathematics commenced for year 6 to year 8 students to assist with gaining admittance into secondary colleges.
The prime objectives of Ionic Coaching were simple; to assist students to achieve a better understanding of English and Mathematics, to build confidence for passing examinations to qualify for higher education, to better equip students to enter the workforce and to accept any student tuition regardless of their financial situation.
Saturday classes commenced in 1951 and were conducted by Past Masters of the then No.4 & No.11 Groups. Students were taught English and Mathematics for one-hour in each subject, in accordance with the Education Department curriculum.
The enrollment of 300-400 students soon resulted in class expansion to include students from Kew, Camberwell, Ashburton, Canterbury, Surrey Hills, Box Hill, Blackburn and Ringwood.
In 1972, Ionic spread its coaching wings to students studying up to year 10 and eventually to years 11 and 12. In 1984, the Ionic Coaching Service suffered its greatest decline as the sudden downturn of students coming from Lodge members seemed to mirror the decline in new Masonic membership. The then Grand Master, MWB Austin Asche, granted permission for direct marketing and promotion of the program to 65 surrounding schools in the South Eastern Region of Melbourne that created a new wave of student enrolments.
In March 2010, a suspicious fire at the Blackburn Church where the Ionic classes where held (operated by UnitingCare) caused around $200,000 damage. The ‘goodness’ of Freemasonry was demonstrated once more as the Blackburn Uniting Lodge opened their hearts and doors inviting classes to be held in the nearby Clarke Street Masonic Centre. In 2015, Ionic Coaching relocated to the Box Hill Masonic Centre.
According to the current President of the Ionic Coaching Service, Brian Annand, the key to the ongoing success is the special bond shared between Brethren, teachers and students each Saturday.
“We volunteer our time with the same vision and principles of our Ionic forefathers – to better serve our community. Ionic Coaching provides Brethren with the opportunity to engage with students from years 4 to 12 and with dedicated school teachers,” Brian said.
Since 2008, the familiar sounds of a typical school morning have also been heard in Werribee most Saturdays, where the Doric Coaching Service has extended the program to the Western Suburbs.
Brethren are encouraged to become involved to enrich the lives of Victorian students at either Ionic Coaching or Doric Coaching Services. “The true rewards of investing your time in either Saturday program will often be returned in the smiles shared by teachers, parents and students. It’s magical,” Brian said.
Adapted from Freemasonry Victoria Magazine - Spring 2010