A $1bn opportunity - boys can't be what they can't see

by Hunter Johnson, CEO The Man Cave
Saturday 4 May 2024

In 2014, I had a strong gut-feeling to start The Man Cave.

It was a deep ‘knowing’ that captured me. No matter the internal resistance, feelings of imposter syndrome or fear of judgement, I just knew that it needed to happen.

I knew I had to step up and be better as a Man. And I knew we, as a society, needed to invest in boys to stop men harming themselves or the women in their lives.

A decade and 70,000 young men later, my biggest worry is that we haven’t done enough.

Why? Because women are being murdered at an unprecedented rate by people who are supposed to love them. And that is insane.

I have sat with tens of thousands of boys and listened to heart-breaking stories.

Stories of their father murdering their mother, of fathers killing themselves, of their father sexually abusing their sister, of their father punching school teachers or being told a boy can’t be in a Man Cave photo in case their father finds out which school they are now attending.

I have seen their innocence squashed and childhood robbed.

So often these stories are related to intergenerational trauma, shame, alcohol, gambling, pornography and abusive and neglectful childhood environments.

And as a result, now one woman is killed every four days by men.

Not boys but men.

A lack of clarity of what masculinity means now and the role men can constructively play in society sets up a world where lost boys grow into hurt men. The most dangerous people in society are isolated, hurt and dejected men. Posters and billboards won’t change this, a slide show presentation doesn’t change this, a marketing campaign doesn’t change this, reprimanding boys doesn’t change this.

We cannot waste this crisis.

"Boys are central to the solution and no amount of additional resources will bring about genuine long term change unless boys are brought to the table with a legitimate voice." 

- Hunter Johnson,

$1bn from the Albanese Government is an important step forward in preventing the epidemic of men murdering women in this country. I am glad our Government has done this as it will save lives.

This wicked problem cannot be solved without significant investment in the next generation of boys who will support a safer world for women. We must use this opportunity to invest in prevention, not just crisis management.

At The Man Cave, we know what works when it comes to engaging boys on difficult and uncomfortable topics. They have finely tuned B.S detectors and they sniff inauthenticity and fear a mile away. However, when made to feel safe, respected and not judged - they step up.

Boys need to see it, they can’t be what they can’t see.

Boys need healthy role models who sit in front of them and say “I’m here cause I’ve been in your shoes, I give a shit, I want to help and I don’t care how long it takes.” The messenger is as important as the message.

Boys are central to the solution and no amount of additional resources will bring about genuine long term change unless boys are brought to the table with a legitimate voice.

Boys are falling behind and it’s not because they want to. Society-at-large has lost the ability to speak with them and to see through our own judgments of who they are or who they might become.

Every week in schools, we see thousands of boys who want to walk another way but grapple with outdated stereotypes and pressure from a paralysis of influences and choice.

Men’s violence against women can’t be solved without significant focus and investment in the next generation of boys who can support a safer world for everyone.

As I reflect on our journey at The Man Cave, a few key insights are glaringly obvious:

  • We know we can connect with young men unlike anyone else, our challenge is we just can’t get to enough of them.
  • We know that we reach most young men through high schools, our challenge is we just cant access enough schools.
  • We know young men are influenced by awful human beings who poison their brains with toxic content, our challenge is we’re competing with social media giants who profit off the commercialisation of children’s addiction and attention.

It is essential now more than ever to bring boys together and stitch a conscious community of healthy role models who they aspire to be and can hold them accountable.

As Man Cave, I know we have an important role to play and I applaud the Government for taking a significant step. We look forward to partnering with likeminded people, organisations, the Commissioners and the Government to ensure the next generation of boys are a profound force for good.

Thank you to all those who support our work.