Nathan Scolaro on meeting Hunter Johnson
Some of the most courageous work we can do in our communities is to start new conversations about what it means to be a man. We’ve seen how the long-told narrative that men need to bury their feelings and have it all figured out has been destructive on many levels, and yet we still find ourselves—usually unknowingly—repeating sentiments that reinforce it. The Man Cave, founded by Hunter Johnson and his mates Jamin Heppell and Benton Saulo, is working directly with boys and young men to redefine their ideas of masculinity and ultimately shape the broader culture, so that men can stand in their truth with openness, vulnerability and mutual responsibility.
Since its beginnings in 2004, The Man Cave has engaged more than 25,000 young men across Australia, giving them opportunities to confront their social conditioning and connect with a deeper part of themselves. Hunter works with his facilitators to create safe and non-judgemental spaces in which the boys can take off their masks and feel seen and heard by their peers—often for the first time. The program has gained traction around the world. In 2018, Hunter was named one of the Queen’s Young Leaders, a Commonwealth-wide initiative which honours young people doing extraordinary work in their communities. When he accepted the award at Buckingham Palace, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle said they’d wished the work was around when they were young.
Personable and engaging, sensitive and self-aware, Hunter models the kind of masculinity that he talks about: the kind that we need to heal so much of our current social and systemic dysfunction. He observes that this work isn’t about rejecting the masculine altogether, it’s about acknowledging wholeness—the feminine and the masculine that exists within each one of us—and how certain traits can become destructive when they’re not in balance with others, or given their full expression. After chatting with him for an hour, I felt present to a new wave of leadership, and positive that the deep work of culture change was not only possible, but happening.