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'Mail' Newspaper Articles

Focal Point (for publishing—13/03/07)

Initiation to Manhood

Deep in the jungles of Papua New Guinea a group of wild looking older men arrive unannounced at the women’s huts where pubescent boys are living with their mothers. They have come to take the boys away to introduce them to the ways of men, in other words to initiate them. The women fight to protect the boys and the boys scream out for their mother’s protection. In the end the older spear wielding men prevail and the boys are taken away. The women, not to appear to be beaten, circle the men and meet them at the bridge to the river they must cross. A further ruckus ensues but the men prevail again. As the men and the boys go over the horizon the women turn to each other and say, “Not a bad fight we put up, do you think it was convincing enough?” Regardless of the pain of losing their boys these women were going through a charade, knowing that this event for the boys must happen if they are to become men. In 2007 in the north of Australia among Aboriginal tribes and in the villages of Northern Kenya a ritual similar to this occurs. Circumcision is a part but by no means the whole of these ceremonies. Boys are taught tribal values, traditional songs and stories, secrets and are trained to get accustomed to the roles and ‘lot’ of men. The ‘lot’ of men is that they will have to endure pain, loneliness, survival and the rigors of daily decision making and its consequences. Jewish boys go through their ceremony too, the bar mitzvah, where the father dances around the son and publicly announces, “This is my son and today he has become a man”. In Kenya the boys parade down the main street with new clothes (The old ‘boy’ clothes have been burned) and are publicly cheered on by all as they are presented as the new batch of men. Compare this with what seems to be our process. At eighteen you get a license and now can do burn outs while legally driving, you get to legally grog on and you get to brag to your mates about your sexual prowess. Where are the fathers and the tribal Elders? Well, just as you are about to despair, help is at hand. A new program has been developed within the workings of Valley Care Counselling Service that is called ‘A Few Good Men’. These men have met together now for two years now to talk about men’s issues like anger, anxiety, relationships, sexuality, depression and the like. Given that many of these ‘ordinary’ men from our community are lost in terms of doing manhood and in many cases have had little or poor fathering, a new course called ‘A Journey to Manhood’ has been developed. There are twenty points that men need to meet, and if successful a ceremony in which a declaration of manhood is made. The declarer can be their own father if possible or an older leader from the group. For more information contact me on 0409 517273. 

Graeme Dawson
‘A Few Good Men’ leader and initiation course developer 
Co-ordinator Focal Point & Valley Care Counsellor & Manager
Inter-Church Action 


Focal Point Yarra Valley 2009