The 2019 OMCT Grants Awards


Given its complexity, it is remarkable that the OMCT’s Annual Grants Presentation event invariably goes as smoothly as it does and, from an outsider’s point of view, that’s always how it appears to be.  Without doubt this impression is due to the exceptional organisational skills, not to mention dogged tenacity, of the Trust’s Secretary, Grant Watson who, in concert with his small band of ‘elves’, invariably manages to make the occasion a memorable one.  The 2019 ceremony was yet another example of his drive.

Sunday, 16th June saw the Dunedin Masonic Centre bustling, as a large contingent of Freemasons, their honoured guests, awards recipients and visitors awaited the opening programme.  The Chairman of the OMCT, John Dennison, suitably welcomed the assembled throng and, as an overview, spoke of the foresight of the early Otago Freemasons who, decades past, had set aside considerable funds to be used in the region for future, and on-going, charitable purposes.  These great, far-sighted men have long since passed, but thankfully their replacements arrive to continue their good work.  The original funds were invested wisely, as is any new funding, thus the Trust is enabled to continue providing charitable assistance throughout Otago year after year.


Freemasons’ Scholarship recipients from the University of Otago.
[L-R] Prof. Glenn Summerhayes (University of Otago Masonic Scholarships Committee), Jared Monk, Hetal Shukla, Georgina Cook, Brin Ryder and John Dennison (Chairman, The Otago Masonic Charitable Trust). Ref: 292


John Steele spoke about a cancer treatment where T-cells (a component of the body’s immune system) are removed and ‘re-engineered’ in the laboratory. They are then reintroduced into the patient whereupon the altered T-cells now find, attack and kill malignant cancer cells.


The Dean of the Dunedin Medical School, Professor Barry Taylor, who next spoke, explained that his is one such organisation that, over the years, has benefitted from the OMCT’s support through scholarships for research Fellows.  Professor Taylor went on to describe the development of disturbing new trends within modern living, and of the specialized research being carried out in Otago in paediatrics and early childcare to combat it.  He described how the research had shown the detrimental effect that modern living was having on young children, such as a lack of one-on-one time, neglect and the way children are cared for.  He pointed out how particularly important is the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. He informed the audience that if a child is not properly cared for during this period then their long-term health into adulthood was likely to be detrimentally affected.  He said that long-term research of this nature could not be successfully carried out without the financial assistance provided through the various OMCT scholarships awarded to his research students.

John Steele, Chairman of the Otago Freemasons’ Oncology Research Project, in turn informed the assembly about the work of ‘his’ Research Project and how it was performing at the world-leading forefront of treatment research in the fight against cancer.  He mentioned in particular the very promising developments in T-cell research and its use through immunotherapy.  (NOTESee the articles on Dr Braeden Donaldson’s Fellowship Scholarship and also Dr Melanie Grant, a Post-Doctorate Research Fellow, elsewhere on this website.)

In the role of MC, Grant Watson moved the event along at a pace, and requested a representative of the first successful OMCT Grant Award for 2019 to step forward.  This was Wenda Parata-Muir of The Dunedin Women’s Refuge, who was presented with the OMCT’s Grant cheque by The Honourable Michael Woodhouse MP, a long-time keen supporter of the OMCT’s work within the community.


The Hon. Michael Woodhouse MP presents Wenda Parata-Muir from the Dunedin Women’s Refuge with a cheque to buy kitchen equipment for a Safe House.




Hon. Michael Woodhouse MP is pictured with Yiwen Sheng representing the Dunedin Chinese Cultural & Arts Association.


Te Whare Pounamu Dunedin Women’s Refuge

Since the 1970’s, the Refuge had been operating in the Greater Dunedin area, providing services for women and children that are victims of family violence.  They work towards the prevention and elimination of family violence and abuse, to facilitate healthier families, and a healthier community.  The Refuge works with all women, regardless of their circumstances.

It is, unfortunately, a sad reflection of our society today that such organisations are required to intervene so often in our communities.

The money was required to provide equipment for the kitchen of one of their Residential Safe Houses.

Grant Watson next brought onto the stage the representative from The Dunedin Chinese Cultural and Arts Association, Ms Yiwen Sheng.  For one and a half centuries, Dunedin has embraced the Chinese community, and it is fitting that their culture and ways should be preserved for future generations to see and appreciate.



The Hon. Michael Woodhouse MP presents Elizabeth Harrax and Kevin Dale from Mosgiel Elderly Care Trust with an OMCT Grant cheque.


Dunedin Chinese Association

Arriving in New Zealand in the days of the gold rush, the Chinese community has a long and rich history in Dunedin and Otago.

The Dunedin Chinese Cultural & Arts Association is a not-for-profit organization that aims to promote Chinese cultural arts in Otago by bringing a multicultural experience to the wider Otago Community, by interacting with other ethnic groups.  As well as providing a cultural platform to enrich the Chinese community itself, regardless of age.

The OMCT’s Grant was used to purchase waist drums for children and adults, and performance costumes for their dance troupe.  The dance troupe are highly visible during most of the year and may be frequently seen performing yao gu (waist drums) and well-choreographed dance routines, outside Dunedin’s famous Chinese Gardens.

And so the OMCT’s Grants Presentation moved forward, with one worthy cause after another benefitting from this year’s awards.

Mosgiel Elderly Care

The Mosgiel Elderly Care Trust has been providing day-care programmes for older people in the Mosgiel district since 1982.  Unfortunately, elderly people who are housebound is becoming a greater problem every year.  To help alleviate the situation, the Mosgiel Trust provides those people with recreational and social opportunities outside their own home, as well as social relief for the person’s family.

The Grant was for the purchase of Senior Citizens’ mobility walkers.

The Asthma Otago Society

For more than 40-years, Asthma Otago has provided support for people and families with lung disease, for over 40 years.  This includes asthma, chronic pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis.  Sadly, New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world.

Asthma Otago provides education services and also promotes wellness via exercise classes.

The Grant that they received was used to obtain a replacement belt for one of their exercise treadmills.

Otago Branch – Vintage Car Club

Vintage Car Clubs are part of New Zealand communities right around the country, and the Otago Branch of the Vintage Car Club is this year celebrating its 65th year.

The Club’s membership, whose age ranges from 18 to 80 (and then some!), all collectively share a passion for older vehicles.  Their enthusiasm and the massive amounts of restoration work that they carry out each year, helps preserve this aspect of New Zealand’s transport history.

The Grant was to finance a safety fence at their clubrooms in Forbury Road.



Carol Tippet and Heather McKenzie from Parkinson’s NZ Charitable Trust receive their cheque from Michael Woodhouse MP.


The Hon. Michael Woodhouse MP is pictured having presented a Grant cheque to stalwart, long-serving Freemason, Don Barkman, who represented the Royal Dunedin Male Choir.

Parkinson’s NZ Charitable Trust

The Trust supports sufferers of Parkinson’s Disease and their Carers in the Dunedin and Mosgiel area.  Approximately 10,000 people have Parkinson’s in NZ with approximately 340 of these domiciled in Otago. The group assists with therapy, with education and advocacy.

This particular OMCT Award was for two spin-exercise bicycles.  Biking has been shown to slow the progression of the disease and eases symptoms such as muscle stiffness and rigidity, while improving cognitive function.

Mosgiel Abilities Resource Centre

The Centre provides services to people with disabilities and has done so since 1981.  It offers programmes such as, cooking, woodwork, pottery, computer lessons, swimming, gym and fitness, a young men’s and a young women’s group, holiday camps and music.  Part of the service offered is community activities where people can come together and participate in common interests; music being one such activity.

This OMCT Grant provided for musical equipment to assist in their vocational services program.

Royal Dunedin Male Choir

Surely this is one of New Zealand’s oldest and most respected male choirs, having its origins in 1878, and naturally it is a much-loved Dunedin institution.  It obtained its ‘Royal’ status by Royal Patent in 1927, following a visit to Dunedin by the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother).  It was the third time that the choir had performed before Royalty (1901; 1920; 1927).  The Duke and Duchess must have been suitably impressed as it was not long after their visit that the Royal Patent arrived.  Quite an accolade, since one might imagine that the future King and Queen had already heard quite a few choirs perform in their time.

In a typical year, the choir performs two concerts in the Town Hall as well as various concerts for residents at various Rest Homes in Dunedin.  Indeed, at the time of our presentation the choir were on the road, performing their Mid-winter Concert and the assembled Masonic contingent were suitably surprised when stalwart, long-time Freemason, Don Barkman, made time to attend the OMCT event, since Don is usually performing in the choir!



What a fine body of chaps – all dressed up in their Sunday best. The Royal Dunedin Male Choir ready themselves for another concert


A crew-woman from the offshore patrol vessel, HMNZS Otago, discusses the changes of life aboard ship from the mid-20th Century to the 21st Century, with a Royal NZ Navy veteran in Montecillo Rest Home, Dunedin, Otago.

Montecillo Veterans Home

Most people in Dunedin have heard of the Montecillo Veterans Home.  It incorporates both a residential home and a hospital with the usual full services.  In keeping with its purpose, Montecillo maintains aspects of military support.

The OMCT’s Grant financed a lifting hoist that is essential equipment to assist many frail residents.

Waiora Scout Campsite

Located only 15 minutes’ drive from the centre of Dunedin is a stunning property hidden in the Silverstream Valley.  Purchased in 1948 with funds raised by public subscription and Scout fund-raising throughout Otago, the campsite was purchased to provide a safe environment for Scouts and other youth to become experienced and skilled in outdoor activities.  It is now used by a wide range of organizations and people.

The camp, which is surrounded by more than 35ha of native bush and parkland, offers a range of accommodation and conference facilities, catering for groups ranging in size from 3 or 4 people to large festivals of 400 to 500 people, but because of its location emergency access can take time.

The Grant was used to purchase a defibrillator to assist during any medical emergency until specialist help can arrive from Dunedin or Mosgiel.

Kiwi Harvest

New Zealand generates in excess of 103,000 tonnes of food waste per year, yet it is estimated that 60% of the food heading for a landfill site is actually completely safe to eat. 

In 2012 in Dunedin, Deborah Manning thought of the concept of rescuing this food and distributing it to those who needed it.  Kiwi Harvest now operate in four cities, including Auckland.  They work with many food businesses, such as supermarkets, wholesalers, producers, cafés, restaurants, and hotels, to rescue the good food that they are not able to sell.  In simple terms, they collect perfectly good, but unsold, food before it goes to waste and deliver it to those in need.

The Trustees of the Otago Masonic Charitable Trust were pleased to sign-off on this Grant that enabled the purchase of two laptop computers and a screen for this worthy cause.

      Michael Woodhouse MP, presents Diedre and Nigel Tucker from The Music for Dementia Trust, with their cheque to purchase specialised MP3 music players.

The Music for Dementia Trust

This is a fairly new initiative for Dunedin.  Indeed, The Music for Dementia Trust was only formed in 2018, but the technique of treating dementia through music therapy is used quite extensively in other countries, particularly in the U.S.A.

Playing music that is meaningful to a patient stimulates their brain to relive and hopefully retrieve memories previously considered to be lost and, extraordinarily, this quite basic ‘treatment’ frequently helps sufferers to reconnect with their loved ones.  In a number of cases, people who have been unresponsive for years have been ‘brought back’ after hearing the music of their youth.  Others are calmer, happier, more communicative and livelier when listening to ‘their’ music.

The Trust works in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Otago to provide personalised music to people with dementia living in Dunedin, and it hopes to expand this further afield in the future.

The Music for Dementia Trust used this particular Grant was to buy customized MP3 player kits.

While this particular Grants Presentation is taking place in front of you,” Grant Watson announced to the audience, “similar presentations are simultaneously occurring in Oamaru, Alexandra and Milton.”  He went on to describe the essence of some of those.

In 2012 in Dunedin, Deborah Manning thought of the concept of rescuing this food and distributing it to those who needed it.  Kiwi Harvest now operate in four cities, including Auckland.  They work with many food businesses, such as supermarkets, wholesalers, producers, cafés, restaurants, and hotels, to rescue the good food that they are not able to sell.  In simple terms, they collect perfectly good, but unsold, food before it goes to waste and deliver it to those in need.

The Trustees of the Otago Masonic Charitable Trust were pleased to sign-off on this Grant that enabled the purchase of two laptop computers and a screen for this worthy cause.

Vanished World – Duntroon

In Oamaru a Masonic grant was being made to Vanished World based in Duntroon.  Grant said, “If you are passing through Duntroon, you could do worse than spend an hour at Vanished World and see what has been coming to light from the vast limestone deposits in the area.  The local rocks are millions of years old and recent finds include a fearsome looking dolphin and the fossilised remains of a penguin that, when it lived, stood more than 2-metres tall!

The OMCT Award financed the purchase of a special computer screen to be connected to a microscope thus facilitating the high-resolution viewing of details these scientifically significant, ancient creatures.


A thick pall of smoke lingers over a wide area as Clyde Volunteer Fire Brigade damp down hotspots having subjugated a large house fire in their town.


Members of Kaka Point Surf Lifesaving Club pictured with one of their Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRB’s).

Clyde Volunteer Fire Brigade

Grant continued, “In Central Otago, a Grant has been approved to go to the Clyde Volunteer Fire Brigade for LED torches specially adapted to fit on firefighters’ helmets to allow them to work in darkness with both hands free.”

Kaka Point Surf Lifesaving Club

In South Otago a Grant was being made to the Kaka Point Surf Lifesaving Club who had fallen expensively foul of upcoming new Health & Safety Regulations.  The new regulations state that from next year it will be compulsory for Surf Lifesavers to wear helmets when operating surf canoes, surf boats and IRB’s – Easy to say, but a huge expense for a small club that is vital to water safety in the area.  And who is going to pay for all this new equipment?

This particular OMCT Grant now allowed the Lifesaving Club continue to operate by having this new safety gear in their possession for the following summer.

The OMCT Presentations event moves along at quite a pace – and other grants, bursaries and awards were made:

The Otago Food Banks received $5,800.    (NOTESee the Food Banks article elsewhere on this website.)

A past student of Logan Park High School, Rosa Miles-Sealy, was awarded the $5,000 Port Chalmers Marine Lodge Bursary to help fund her studies into Political Science and Law at the University of Wellington.  (NOTESee Rosa’s full story elsewhere on this website.)

The Hugh Montgomery Trust Bursary went to Kahla Tyson, for leadership skills shown in her study of Diagnostic Pathology.  Monsignor John Harrison presented this award. 



Youth Development Programme course presenters and recipients.
[L-R] Ross Hudson (Committee Chairman), Christine Garey (Representing the DCC), Alise Allnatt, Arlo Forsyth-Priest, Sarah Donaldson, Oliver Mouat, and Barbara & Arthur White (Elwing Discoveries).


The Grand Master-elect, Freemasons NZ, Rt.W.Bro. Graham Wrigley  declared the 2019 Otago Masonic Charitable Trust’s Grants Presentation event to be a success, with more than $120,000 having been donated to worthy causes in the region or provided in the form of research scholarships.


The OMCT’s Youth Development Programme which is run aboard the fantastic motor yacht ‘Elwing’, produced awards for Alise AllnattSamantha DonaldsonAmy LloydOliver Mouat and Arlo Priest-Forsyth from Dunedin, and Mila ArnerichErin Caulder and Tamsin Hughes from Central Otago. 

The Dunedin School of Art again received $10,000 in sponsorship from The Fred Staub Open Art Fund that is administered by the Otago Masonic Charitable Trust.  (NOTESee the SITE Exhibition article elsewhere on this website.)

Aptly, Chairman of the Freemasons’ Charity and the Grand Master of Freemasons New Zealand, M.W. Graham Wrigley, made the closing remarks on what was an exciting Grants Presentation; one that showcased Freemasons’ charity in action and for all to see.  To the applause of those in attendance, the Grand Master informed everyone that in excess of $120,000 had been distributed this day in the form of scholarships, sponsorships, bursaries, grants and awards to worthy individuals and organisations across Otago.

In conclusion, OMCT Secretary, Grant Watson said, “Well, perhaps during the OMCT Grants Presentations, I might appear to be the proverbial ‘swan on the water’ sailing serenely along in the breeze.  The real truth, however, is that underneath I am paddling harder than Lisa Carrington at the Olympics!”

Better get some paddling training in then, Mr. Watson – the next round of the OMCT’s Annual Grant Awards are just around the corner.

John Wren-Potter


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