Who we are


Dave Owens - founder and trustee, with his grandson


"Great Fathers began with me realising what I didn't know – and what wasn't really known – about young children and their fathers when I was a new dad. Great Fathers has focused on the compelling research that explains what a huge difference it makes when children have a nurturing father.

With the idea of improving children's lives through good parenting, I started looking into what was in place to support parents during the early years when they are just figuring out how to be parents. I met with service providers in Ngāmotu/New Plymouth, where I live. Then I went to Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington and I met with the chief executives of the national service providers as well as SKIP. There were always three things in common to these meetings. One was that I was the only male there. The second was that they all acknowledged they had very few dads using their services. And third, these organisations could fulfil all of their contracts by engaging with mothers without engaging with fathers at all.


That no one was looking at fathers in regards to positive outcomes for children seemed to me to be a gaping hole. If the research concludes that children do better by having a nurturing father, then surely the partners of the mothers should be including in these services. Great Fathers is about supporting children by encouraging their father to have a positive relationship with then. 

Great Fathers is also personal. My stepdaughter Sonya, had been an unexpected pregnancy and an unwanted baby. Her first nine-months was spent with her mother in a dysfunctional and violent relationship and as a baby Sonya would have been present as her mother was assaulted. I also realised that, coming into her life after infancy, I didn't have the depth of emotionally connection to Sonya that I did to my birth-daughter - whose birth I experienced and whom I had held often when she was an infant. Life is complex and linking cause and effect cannot be conclusive. But considering what is now known about the effects of adverse childhood experiences and lack of secure  attachment, I am convinced that Sonya’s suicide was related to her early life experience. Great Fathers is dedicated to Sonya Peg Owens, 1975-1997.


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​David Younger - Trustee


"Hi, I'm a father of 3 adult children. I didn't have a great upbringing of being fathered myself. Later, I worked with children, doing residential social work. Both of these experiences led me to want to be an engaged and effective father. I had children to have fun with them, and to love and be loved via those relationships. I was lucky enough at times to be able to prioritise my time and be confident in being the primary caregiver with my children. Being a father has been one of the best experiences, if not the best! of my life. I have learnt as much from them as they have from me.

I choose to work with Great Fathers because I support other fathers to enjoy fathering and be the best fathers they can be. I believe this helps men, their children, their families, the wider communities and society to be happier and safer.


Rodger Smith - trustee

"Now retired, I initially spent my working life in community development and social justice advocacy. From this, I became a  facilitator with  SAFE, a community-based child sex offender treatment  programme. Then followed work as a facilitator on a Living Without Violence programme, and from there  began working for South Auckland Family Violence Prevention Network.


As satisfying as this work was,I realised it was “AHB” (After the Horse has Bolted) and not focusing on social change. So when Dave talked about his  vision of Great Fathers – growing well-being for children through encouraging fathers to play their full role as caregivers – I knew this is where I wanted to be: “BHB” (Before the Horse has Bolted).


Martin Pepperell - chief executive

"How we raise our children is arguably the most important and long lasting work any of us ever do. I have worked in marketing and communications, environmental sponsorship, conservation volunteerism, and the disability sector. But my most absorbing and motivating work is what I am doing now: helping men to have a closer connection with their children as infants and toddlers.


Research consistently shows that the short- and long-term benefits from having a dad who is engaged and nurturing is huge for their children. These benefits go beyond the individuals - in regards to the government's spend on health, social welfare, policing and corrections. The potential benefits of getting all dads of all demographics highly engaged with their youngest children are monumental for New Zealand Aotearoa.

Despite my many mistakes … I have two wonderful adult children.