About Us

Our Philosophy

Our programs provide opportunities for young men, often for the first time in their lives:

To realise that their daily challenges are widely shared;

To redefine their experience of masculinity not as silence, isolation and indifference, but rather openness, vulnerability, trust and mutual responsibility;

To develop their emotional toolkit to powerfully deal with the challenges of life; and

To develop interpersonal skills that help them foster the important relationships they want and need.

We achieve this by creating emotionally-rich ‘male positive’ sharing environments, intentionally built to create trust, confidentiality and peer support. These environments are grounded in best practice and the latest research on positive psychology, social and emotional intelligence, personal identity, ‘masculinities’, mental health and youth work.

Research shows that such experiences build self-esteem, develop emotional and social intelligence, increase mental and physical wellbeing, build resilience and, ultimately, help our boys and young men lead a life of connection, purpose and positive impact.

Our parent/teacher/community workshops further strengthen the outcomes above by helping build a supportive community in which our boys can realise their full potential.

Our Approach

We are experts in youth-engagement strategies and facilitation

Our programs are tailored to suit each group’s specific outcomes

We combine evidence-based research with emotional connection

Our work is primary prevention and provide students with tangible skills

Our programs are co-designed with mental health experts and young people

We aim for long-term engagement and positive behaviour change

How The Man Cave Works

Our workshops create a safe space for courageous conversations that:

DECONSTRUCT

‘Traditionally’ held views of masculinity, the influence of mass media, the behaviour role-modelled around them, and the impacts of social pressures on identity, mental health and relationships.

CHALLENGE

The boys and young men to be actively present, to be vulnerable and real, to build authentic relationships, and positively impact the world around them.

REDEFINE

Their personal sense of self, of place and their abilities to make choices that positively impact their journey to lead a life of connection, purpose and positive impact.

We are proudly partnered with, and auspiced under, YMCA Victoria.

The Team

Hunter Johnson

CEO

Hunter Johnson is CEO of The Man Cave. Hunter has a diverse background in emotional intelligence, youth leadership and social entrepreneurship having facilitated programs with over 20,000 young Australians across the country with HeadQuarters Australia, FYA, Kids in Philanthropy (KIP) and YMCA Victoria. Hunter is a 2018 Queens Young Leader, Winner of the 2017 Emerging Leader of the Year Award by Third Sector Australia, Finalist for the 2017 Leadership Category of the Victorian Young Achiever Awards and an Honouree of the JCI Australia Ten Outstanding Young Persons Award.

Joel Lazar

Head of Operations

Joel Lazar is Head of Operations at The Man Cave. Previously, Joel spent a few years honing his craft in commercial law at one of Australia’s leading law firms. Joel has lead a colourful and passionate life, including as an educational program designer, editor and project manager (Stand Up), a youth leader and facilitator (Hineni Youth & Welfare), a human rights law intern (ISHR, Geneva) and a script writer (Castan Centre for Human Rights Law).  In every societal endeavour, Joel cares foremost about two questions: What is our purpose? What is our impact? These questions continually guide his work at The Man Cave. In his spare time, Joel plays a fierce game of table tennis, writes obscure poetry, and is a regular cantor at his local synagogue.

Errol Tyson

Digital Media & Communications Manager

Coming from a background in social change filmmaking, Errol has worked extensively in the Campaigns and International Engagement sector at Oaktree. Independent projects that Errol has worked on include the Nepal Nonfiction Visual Storytelling Festival, producing & directing a documentary surrounding mental health in the workplace, and involvement with Human Rights Arts & Film Festival.  In addition to video production, Errol has also led local programs for YMCA Victoria Youth Services, including community & school based skateboarding events and clinics.

Jamin Heppell

Senior Facilitator

Jamin Heppell is Senior Facilitator at The Man Cave. Jamin has always been passionate about leadership, mental health and wellness having founded Game Changers Australia, which has trained and supported over 2500 young leaders to reshape sporting culture with a particular emphasis on improving mental health. Also, Healthy Communities Australia, a fitness company that improves the wellness of parents so they can live positively influence their children. Jamin has received $130,000 in funding from the State Government and $30,000 from VicHealth to support these initiatives. Jamin was a 2016 Finalist in the Leadership and Well-being Categories of the Victorian Young Achievers Award.

Matt Defina

Program Design Consultant

Matt Defina is Program Design Consultant at The Man Cave. Having completed a Master of Organisational Psychology. Matt has been involved in designing and delivering ethically-sound and evidence-based programs at PwC, Business Olympian, Pitcher Partners, Beyond Story and Hockey Victoria. His research to date has focused on understanding the balance of gender attributes required to be an effective modern leader and how to reduce burnout and increase engagement in organisations. This research has equipped Matt with a strong understanding of how social and gender roles impact human behaviour and how to positively influence human behaviour at a systematic level. Matt is constantly finding ways to push himself beyond his comfort zone and has Scuba Dived around the world and trekked to Mount Everest Base Camp.

The Board

Michaela Healey

Michaela is a founder of the International Women’s Forum Australia, a member of Chief Executive Women and Vice President of Berry Street, Victoria’s leading provider of care and support for children who have experienced trauma or family difficulties. She was previously Group Executive, People Communications & Governance at the National Australia Bank Group, responsible for people, leadership, culture, corporate responsibility, government affairs, communications, legal and governance.

Michaela was also a founding director of ShareGift Australia, a not-for-profit that enables shareholders to convert their shares into cash for tax deductible donations to a charity of their choice, and an advocate in the establishment of the Big Issue Homes for Homes initiative. As a mother of a teenage son and a director of Berry Street, Michaela is aware of the pressures and challenges young men face and the importance of the development of skills to navigate life. After many years in board rooms Michaela now seeks to spend more time out in nature on her stand up paddle board or in her vegetable garden. Michaela is also an aspiring apiarist and yogi.

Ian Ward-Ambler

Ian contributes widely to the community, and carefully considers each role before accepting. Mission alignment for him is imperative but it’s also about ensuring he can make a contribution (and learn much in the process!) In addition to Chair and Board Director at The Man Cave, Ian is Deputy Chair, Voyages Indigenous Tourism (Ayers Rock Resort) and Chair, Mutitjulu Foundation; Trustee Director and Investment Committee member, CBA Group Superannuation Fund; Board member and Chair, Finance and Audit Committee at Trinity College; Council Member and Chair, Investment Management Committee at Melbourne Grammar School; Advisory Board Member, Indigenous Leadership, Excellence and Achievement Program (I-LEAP) at Melbourne University; and Director, Foundation Five Nine.

Ian is also an executive coach.

Ian spent much of his career in Finance, retiring in 2012 from Goldman Sachs, as Head of the Asset Management Division. He is the former Chair of Hands on Learning and former Vice Chair of ANROWS. Ian is a family man, married with four children. His passions include travel, golf and enjoying life to the fullest.