Australian History

A Brief History of the Grand Priory of Australia

The Grand Priory of Australia

The Order of Saint Lazarus of Jerusalem was established in Australia in 1979 under the leadership of Chevalier Ray Bagdonis and has grown steadily in membership and scope of charitable works through Commanderies formed in each capital city.

Commandery meetings are held in each Capital City during the year and a national meeting, known as the National Chapter, is held annually by rotation among the Commanderies.

A National Council, comprising the Presidents of each State and the ACT together with the office bearers as set out in Section 4.2, is responsible for the governance of the Order between National Chapter meetings.


The Order under the Magistry of the Duke of Brissac commenced in Australia in November 1979 with the appointment of Alderman Ray Bagdonas as a Commander.

The following year by a Magistral Decree of 15th March 1980 Australia was created a National Delegation with Cmd. Bagdonas appointed as Delegate. His first task was to recruit suitable members which he did in New South Wales throughout 1980. On 25th May 1981 the Australian Delegation held its first meeting at the Union Club where it was agreed to meet an appeal for assistance from Sister Pat Swan a psychiatric nurse for a day care/activity centre for the mentally ill in the Campbelltown area of Sydney. As a result the Order leased premises in Campbelltown and agreed to provide ongoing funding with the staffing provided by the local Area Health Service. The centre, called St. Lazarus House, was opened by the Mayor of Campbelltown on 1st August 1981.

The members in New South Wales continued to meet monthly and further recruitment was carried out. The success of the Campbelltown St. Lazarus House brought a Health Commission request for a similar facility at Bankstown and the Order leased premises and funded this day care centre which was opened on 8th May 1982. Commander Bagdonas represented the Order on the management committees of both houses. The Sydney press and television widely reported on the work of the Order and both St. Lazarus Houses.

The Delegate, realizing that the Delegation to be a truly national body needed membership from other States recruited members to form a sub-delegation in Victoria. The Victorian sub-delegation or branch held its first meeting on 5th December, 1982 in Sydney when members attended an Investiture at St. John's Anglican Church, Gordon, which was the Order's chapel. Sir Donald Trescowthick, K.B.E., C.L.J., was elected the first president of the Victorian branch.

The next branch to be established was Queensland in November 1983 with Cmd. Denis Galligan, QC., the Solicitor General, as its first president. In November 1983 Queensland and Victorian members attended a reunion and investiture at St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral in Sydney. A branch was established in the Australian Capital Territory on 11th May 1984 with the Hon. Justice John Kelly as President. With all state branches meeting regularly recruitment took place for a branch in South Australia which was formed at an inaugural meeting at the Adelaide Club on 9th October, 1984 with Cmd. Lewis Barrett, O.B.E., elected branch President. Victoria and Queensland had made no further progress with recruitment, so the Delegate Cmd. Bagdonas resumed a membership drive which placed both branches on a sounder footing. The Order's new found strength and national identity was reflected by the attendance of members from all State branches at a National Reunion and Investiture held at Canberra on 15th December 1984.
Recognition for the Order's strong growth in Australia was given when on the 10th April 1985 by the Magistral Decree No. 85, a Grand Bailiwick covering Australia and the South Pacific region was created. The Delegate Ray Bagdonas, was made the Order's first knight. The next national reunion was held in Adelaide in February 1987 followed by Melbourne in February 1988 where the newly formed Tasmanian Commandery had its inaugural meeting electing the Hon. Ken Lowrie as its first President or Commander.

All commanderies meet regularly, usually every two months or so, hold annual general meetings to elect their executive officers while the Grand Bailiwick holds a national chapter and investiture annually. Each Commandery carries out its own humanitarian work, as does the Bailiwick on projects initiated by the National Council and the Grand Bailiff.

Thanks to the efforts of its members the Order has made great progress over a short period of time making a positive contribution in aid of the sick or suffering and to the ecumenical Christian ideal.

Acknowledgment to Chev Ray Bagdonas GCLJ - The Millitary and Hospitaller Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem - It's History and Work 1988



History Of Order
South Australia
Orders & Awards
Members Manual