Who we are
Dave Owens - founder and trustee, with his grandson
"Great Fathers Mana Matua began with what I didn't know – and what wasn't/isn't commonly known – about the value to infants and toddlers of their father building a strong, positive relationship with them. Research shows what a huge difference it makes when children have a nurturing dad in their life. Many of our serious social problems can be nipped in the bud if a dad is strongly attached to his baby.
Having gone into the research, I started looking into what support was available to parents during the early years when they are trying figure out how to be parents. I met with service providers in Ngāmotu/New Plymouth, where I live. I went to Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington and I met with the chief executives of the national service providers there, as well as the government agencies. There were always three things in common in these meetings. One was that I was always the only male. The second was that they all acknowledged they had very few dads using their services. And third - and generally left unspoken - was that they could fulfil all of their contract obligations without engaging with fathers at all. While there was often good will towards dads, they were never prioritised. Service providers had enough to do dealing with mums - and they had no idea about how to engage dads with very young children.
If 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 - whom she eventually left. 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 shaped her brain and 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).