The Rite Journey

Year 9 has long been identified by educators as somewhat of a lost year for boys – they are no longer the new ones, sheepishly finding their way around a new environment, and they are yet to hit the year when subject selections and career paths become the prominent intrinsic motivators for students.

Their role models are often celebrities who do not necessarily espouse the positive set of values parents would like to instil in their own children. Consequently, in a bid to emulate these negative role models, their behaviour can tend to be rebellious, distasteful or disrespectful. Furthermore, the constant media bombardment they are exposed to means the impressionable youth of today are faced with an overwhelming mountain of conflicting information as they try to establish who they are, what they believe in, and what they stand for.

Of course, these experiences do not ring true for all 14 year old boys, but it was a common enough observation made by school teachers and co-developers of The Rite Journey program, Andrew Lines and Graham Gallasch, for them to be inspired to do something about it.

Beginning the Journey

Lines and Gallasch developed The Rite Journey in 2004 with a focus on the precise aspect of growing up that Year 9 boys are concerned about – how to become a man. The program covers a wide range of themes and issues which boys will encounter on the search for their own identity.

The program was introduced to CBC Fremantle in 2012, with a view of developing boys' sense of responsibility and gratitude. The Rite Journey classes are held once a week in Year 9 in small groups, facilitated by a male teacher who remains with the same group throughout the year.

Some of the issues that students are encouraged to explore include honesty, the meaning of mateship, sexuality, managing anger and dealing with our true feelings. For some teenage boys, these aspects of life can be very confronting, and may be largely ignored or repressed because boys are traditionally expected to be able to internalise such thoughts and feelings.

At CBC, The Rite Journey provides a platform for serious discussions surrounding real life topics which might otherwise just pass by undetected or be disregarded or trivialised. By bringing these subjects out in the open, boys develop a greater sense of responsibility, gratitude and compassion which may otherwise be absent until some years later.

The program also uses a wide range of different activities and movement games to deliver important lessons about values and manhood. Learning to juggle, making music and setting personal and group challenges all aid in delivering powerful messages about the way we treat each other and how to overcome difficulties in our lives. Whilst seemingly just a bit of fun, these activities teach students about themselves and improves their day-to-day behaviour and relationships.

The role of the Mentor

In support of this program, students are asked to identify a significant male mentor in their lives, other than their father, with whom they can share and discuss some of their experiences from The Rite Journey. The Mentor is someone who they respect, admire and trust. In this role, Mentors are expected to speak frequently with their Mentee about the issues raised in The Rite Journey program, further elaborating on the themes identified in class.

The Mentors play an important role in the program because the activities in the classroom serve as merely a starting point for the students' exploration of themselves. Through conversations with their Mentor, students are able to open up further about the expectations placed upon them by their peers, their parents and society as a whole, with the Mentor being able to offer their perspective from their life experiences.

A number of ceremonies are also dotted throughout the program, beginning with the Calling Ceremony at the beginning of Year 9, and concluding with the Abyss Experience at the end of the year. The Abyss Experience will ask boys to spend a night on their own, camping in a one-man tent in the bush at Bindoon. In their 12 hours alone, students reflect on their year, the lessons they've learned both in the classroom and as part of society, and confront their true selves – their real identity. It is a powerful climax to the year – a culmination of extensive discussion and exploration which ultimately will help identify each student's sense of self and individual worth.

The Rite Journey at CBC

CBC Fremantle has embraced The Rite Journey program through the support of 13 male staff members who collectively identified that their students would benefit enormously from the course. CBC prides itself on supporting parents in developing good young men who are meaningful contributors to society, and the program complements the College's culture and values.

The true results of The Rite Journey will ultimately not be felt for another year or two, until students who have undertaken the program have moved into upper school where they need to start making genuine life choices. But the early signs are very positive, with all teachers involved noting significant change in the students they have been working with.