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Who we are


Dave Owens - founder and trustee, with his grandson


"Great Fathers Mana Matua began with me realising what I didn't know – and what wasn't widely 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 in their life.

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 government agencies. There were always three things in common in these meetings. One was that I was the only male. 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 seemed to me to be a gaping hole. If the research concludes that children do better by having a nurturing father, surely the partners of mothers should be actively including in these services! A significant part of Great Fathers Mana Matua's work is about creating resources that help service providers to engage with the men who are either fathers or in fathering roles with young children.  

Great Fathers Mana Matua is also personal. My stepdaughter, Sonya, had been an unwanted baby. Her first nine-months was spent with her mother and father in a rocky and violent relationship. As a baby Sonya would have been present when her mother was assaulted by her father. Research now tells us that Sonya would have carried the terror of these assaults into her developing brain. She had been too young to have conscious memories of them, but these earliest experiences developed into mental illness. 


As an inexperienced step-dad to Sonya, I knew nothing about parenting or young children's emotional needs. Years later, I believe that the biggest difference between Sonya and her well-adjusted younger sister was that Sonya did not have a secure attachment to her mother, or to me. I had an emotional bond to her sister that had been automatic for me by being at the birth and caring for her as an infant. Life is complex and linking cause and effect is never conclusive. But considering what we now know 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 trauma. Great Fathers Mana Matua 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.

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