Vol I

“I was trained to be a good athlete;

I was not trained to be
a well-balanced person.”

Wayne Schwass

Former AFL player & Mental Health campaigner

 

 

 

Quote excerpt from The Age1

A new generation is transforming the Australian sporting landscape by forging through the hyper-macho traditions and distigmatising mental illness. In the following report we’ll evaluate the impact of this cultural shockwave and how brands can, or should participate in the conversation.

Sport’s Most

Common Injury

An investigative deepdive into an Australian cultural shockwave

Image: David Crosling/AAP

Let’s go back in time 200 years. The first European settlers in Australia had to forge livable conditions out of a harsh raw landscape; they had to tame the untamable bush on an isolated continent. A struggle for survival created a cultural psyche that celebrated the survivor, the tough guy, the battler. The one who didn’t whinge, and just got on with it. As the nation developed and the population grew, many events and figures cemented the competitive, masculine culture of Australia:

1770

1864

1880

1915

1950

1962

1986

1997

2006

Captain James Cook

 

Captain Cook charts the east coast of Australia, naming it New South Wales in the name of England, setting off a chain of events that would see Australian’s battle both the harsh landscape and their own British heritage.

Banjo Paterson

 

Legendary poet Banjo Paterson romanticised rural Australia and often spoke of the outback ‘Bushman’. An uncomplicated figure who was tough, independent, masculine and resourceful. These traits would go on to define Australian masculinity for years to come.

The Legend of Ned Kelly

 

Dying while wearing a D.I.Y. suit of armour Ned has become an essential part of Australia's masculine mythology, with tales celebrating his defiance of the law and authoritative figures, while being celebrated as the tough guy and battler he was.

ANZACs Storm Gallipoli

 

Arguably the moment of birth for Australian nationhood as they find themselves deployed half way around the world fighting a war that isn’t theirs. A display of resourcefulness, courage and mateship. The latter would become an important part of the Australian psyche and a main trait of masculinity.

Riding The Sheep’s Back

 

From the documentary ‘Sheep’s Back’, Riding The Sheep’s Back speaks to the importance of wool in Australia’s prosperity and was synonymous with the Australian way of life. Naturally it was the Australian bushman that had to tough it out silence while city folk reaped the benefits.

Vietnam War

 

Just like the Great Wars, Australia find themselves involved in another war that isn’t their own. Involved with the same amount of stoicism, Australian soldiers faced a war like they’ve never seen before. The soldiers met a hostile reception upon their return home, forcing them to shoulder their own emotional burden.

Crocodile Dundee

 

Bringing a caricatured version of the Australian bushman to the silver screen gave an international audience a taste all the traits that stereotypically make up Australian masculinity.

The Castle

 

Darryl Kerrigan is the model of Australian masculinity and fatherhood, gracing the screens in cult classic ‘The Castle’. The ironic humour and apparent obliviousness to their own clichés reinforces the masculine narrative of the battler that somehow in the face of great odds, still finds time to enjoy themselves.

Steve Irwin

 

Up until his unfortunate passing, Steve Irwin was the embodiment of modern Australian masculine identity. The ever optimistic macho figure who didn’t ever whinge, but attacked everything with the enthusiasm that Australian’s have become known for.

In no facet of our culture is this hyper-masculinity more concentrated than our most abundantly celebrated pastime; Sport. The mentality, when expressed in sporting culture seems to magnify and evolve to be almost gladiatorial: no pads, no mercy, no complaining.

 

These gladiators and their stories of heroism and toughness become folklore. The less weakness shown in the face adversity, the more of a cultural pedestal one is placed on. Below are just a few famed gladiators and their stories of legend.

Image: SportingNews

Image: The Daily Telegraph

Image: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)2 tracks hospitalisations from sports injuries. Accounting for participation rates, Australia Rules Football resulted in 1,319 injuries annually per 100,000 Aussie players and total Rugby at 1,292. Compare that to global sports phenoms Football (Soccer) at a relatively safe 433 injuries, or hockey at 393. On the highest end sits one of Australia’s most loved competitive endeavours; motorsports, at 3,574. Put simply, Australian sports are bred tough, and proud of it.

~ To build up enough courage (usually for men) to face adversity and responsibility ~

~ To endure a period of mental, physical, or emotional hardship with no complaining ~

~ A taunt yelled at someone to let them know they are being weak and for them to get on with
whatever they are afraid to do. Meaning to use the manly powers of a ballsack for courage ~

~ Don't show emotion and adhere like a sterotypical male connotations ~

~ When someone is being to soft and is not showing the testicular fortitude
required for a given situation. This is basically to tell them to Harden the f$#k up! ~

~ Someone who is extremely weak willed ~

~ A "cure all" suggestion from PE teachers for any student suffering an injury ~

~ Someone who doesn't want to party hard or party at all, one with no guts or balls ~

Suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged 15 to 44, and it kills more men than road accidents every year3. The tough guys of Australia can’t tough it out alone, we believe a new generation in sport has the chance to shock culture and make that change.

In 2017, more than 3000 Australians
died by suicide.

75% of them were men.

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The role of the media in glorifying hyper-masculinity is inarguable. Coverage has celebrated the toughness and brutality of local sporting codes since their existence. Outside of the more expected ‘big hit highlight packages’ most sport magazine shows highlighted and rooted for the violent ultra-masculine aspects of sport.

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The NRL Footy Show famously aired the moment when Ben Ross broke his arm in an arm wrestling competition, or Matty John’s alter ego Reg Reagan calling on the league to “bring back the biff”.

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While not quite as crassly as the media, brands have also traditionally promoted a ‘tough’ stereotype of Aussie men. Hard Yakka showed workmen pulling a massive truck up a hill by a rope to demonstrate the strength and rugged nature of Aussie men, and their clothes. Toyota rallied Aussies to “Awaken Your Unbreakable” to draw a parallel to the toughness of their trucks.

 

A simple strategy that at the time made sense - tough product = tough communications. But if you were a brand that didn’t have the tough offering, you looked to sport to borrow masculinity and toughness chops.

The result of Australia’s masculine-obsessed heritage, amplified by the media and advertising industry, is a culture in which any perceived weakness is stigmatised.  An environment where physical weakness is seen as pathetic, and mental weakness pocketed away into a state of taboo and shame.

 

Meanwhile, one in four Australians suffer from mental illnesses3. This is especially true amongst men because they are conditioned to be the tough guy. When they are grappling with a mental illness so many stay silent, only to later admit to feeling different, weak, or crazy.

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Australians suffer from mental illnesses.

1 in 4

"Mental health conditions are more prevalent
in our community than all cancers combined"

Penny Armytage

Commission chairperson for the Royal Commision into Victoria’s mental health system

 

Quote excerpt from The Age4

Dermott Brereton

89’ Grand final with
two broken ribs

Andrew Johns

97’ premiership with
a punctured lung

Sam Burgess

Broken cheekbone in 14’