My time at Camberwell Grammar as a student was incredible, but it was by no means perfect or easy. I fondly remember the cold morning hockey trainings on the JTO with Mr Webster, the quirky art classes with Ms Kelly, and the ever-insightful literature classes with Mr Allan. There are plenty of students that had it much tougher than I did at school, but one thing I think was consistent for everyone was this need to wear a ‘mask’ to school every day. This mask of masculinity has been a persistent feature of masculinity in the last 100+ years and is not unique to Camberwell Grammar.


It’s a confusing and challenging time to identify as a man. There are a lot of mixed messages:

Be a man… be strong, be tough, don’t show emotion, have lots of sex, hustle every day.

Be a man… open up, talk about your feelings, it’s okay to cry, reach out for help.

Boys and men every day are receiving these contrasting messages, leaving them in the middle trying to work out which one is actually right.


The theme of ‘looking back to inform the future’ is very relevant when it comes to understanding masculinity and ill-mental health across all generations and genders. The current generation has inherited a model of masculinity that is reminiscent of what was required during wartimes, but it is now outdated and no longer serving us. 

Just 10, 20, 30, 50, 100 years ago, it was clear that a man needed to get a paycheck and provide for his family. It was clear that a woman needed to find a man, get married, and have children. But as we’ve evolved, we’ve recognised these rigid gender roles don’t serve us, and especially don’t serve women. 

The impact of this outdated model is clear. Suicide is the biggest killer of young men in Australia and one woman dies every week at the hands of her intimate partner (who is 95% of the time a man). If we don’t do something, these statistics will continue or get worse.


We need to get upstream and prevent young men internalising the belief systems and attitudes of a traditional model of masculinity (such as wearing a mask) which leads to worse mental health outcomes, relationships, level of violence, and life outcomes. The future is not about making masculinity wrong, but about expanding it and allowing boys and men to embrace more of their humanity.


To do this, we need to reintroduce Rites of Passage (ROP) into our communities. Young men need challenges during their teenage years, held safely by their elders, in which they can meet their edge and learn more about who they truly are. 

Our programs at The Man Cave are built on this model and designed to give young men the skills and tools to reach their full potential, build healthy relationships, and contribute to their communities. You can also use this model to bring more meaning into the lives of the young men you’re connected to. We grow when we’re uncomfortable.


A ROP is a process in which the individual transforms into a new identity. It consists of three key stages and must all be held by the elders, who are like the cocoon supporting the caterpillar to become the butterfly:

1. Separation: this involves separating boys from their usual physical and emotional environment (e.g. a camping trip, a holiday house without tech).

2. Transformation (made up of 4 stages):

a. Story: boys hear stories from their elders about what life was like when they were a teenager, the challenges they had to navigate, and their success stories.

b. Challenge: boys now go through a challenge of their own (e.g. camping in the bush by themselves, trekking a marathon, climbing a mountain).

c. Vision: now they’ve overcome the challenge, it’s time to create a vision for their future, what kind of man do they want to be in 5-7 years?

d. Honouring: it’s now time for the elders holding the process to openly acknowledge the young man’s unique gifts and strengths. Young men are longing to discover and be seen for their unique attributes, not their achievements.

3. Reintegration: having been through their challenge, the young man is acknowledged for having overcome his challenge. It’s now important for his community and family to grow with him and to be open to any new ideas, beliefs, or goals he has for his life.


If your son has or is going through the ROP that is The Man Cave, you can support him by asking him questions, sharing wisdom through stories, creating time for quality connection and acknowledging his unique gifts and strengths. But don’t be attached to his response, he may not react how you expect or want him to. Trust that he is listening and knowing you’re there to support him is the best way you can be there for him.

For further information on The Man Cave and its objectives, visit

Further Resources

Read The Man Box study, Jesuit Social Services

Read The Making of Men by Dr Arne Rubinstein.

Watch the documentary The Mask Your Live In (available on certain streaming services, including Amazon Prime).

Watch Sex Education on Netflix (to reconnect with what High School was really like).