Who is Great Fathers


Why Great Fathers?

Dave Owens says: “When I first came across the articles of Dr Robin Fancourt, her book Brainy Babies and the Brainwave Trust - I began to understand how fragile and impressionable young babies brains are. I felt a huge sense of anguish. I realised what I hadn’t known when I was a young dad. And I felt that the lives of my own children might have been quite different had I known then what I was just learning. The neuroscience wasn't well defined back then, and most of us were unaware of how important of a baby's first three years. But it is available now. This information - about how babies' minds are formed and how their brains are affected by their parents' behaviour - needs to become common knowledge. My intention with Great Fathers is to present this important information in a way that men can really take it in and encourages men to be the best fathers they can be."

While Great Fathers is designed for men, it is actually for their children … all our children. The aim is for all New Zealand children to have the best possible start in life. One way to contribute to this is by …

  • helping all parents, but men specifically, understand what their baby needs
  • pointing out what nurturing is and why nurturing is so important

Why Great Fathers? Dr Kyle Pruett puts it very, very well…

This is work that needs doing.


Who is Great Fathers?

     Great Fathers initiator Dave Owens is the father of two girls, a writer and editor, social activist, musician, carpenter, documentary maker. In the early 80s he managed a work scheme in New Plymouth, then in 1986 co-founded the Taranaki Work Trust with vivian Hutchinson. In 1993 he went into business for the next seven years as a carpenter. During this time he also co-founded Taranaki Advocacy which assisted people on low-incomes to negotiate with Work & Income and other agencies. In 2000 he went to East Timor to work as a volunteer when that country was suffering from its violent separation from Indonesia and Dave worked with a local community group there. In the early mornings he wrote a series of articles about his experiences and observations in East Timor. On returning to New Zealand he wrote and worked on “Emails from East Timor”, a 56 minute documentary which has screened in film festivals and on Maori Television. Returning from East Timor Dave gave up hi spractice as a carpenter and began writing for The Jobs Letter. From early 2007 Dave has been writing a novel and as well as developing the first ideas that would become the In Your Hands DVD an Great Fathers. In March 2009 he began working full-time on Great Fathers with the intention of encouraging all new dads to be great fathers. 

 Contact: contact@greatfathers.org.nz

Great Fathers 2012

In October 2011, after several years of working under the umbrella of both the Bishop's Action Foundation and the Jobs Research Trust, Great Fathers became a legally constituted trust (founding trustees Dave Owens, Rodger Smith, Simon Cayley and David Younger).

We are deeply greatful to the Todd Foundation who saw the value of Great Fathers from very early on and supported us when we were just getting our feet. They have very generously invited us into their Partnership Fund for 2012. Thanks to all at the Tod Foundation.

We also appreciate the support of the PIF Foundation who funded the comic panels that illustrate this website and which appear in other Great Fathers resources.

We are grateful to the 100s of individuals who have gifted 1000s of In Your Hands DVD to new New Zealand dads, espcially those who have donated towards the costs of producing them.

And we congratulate many organisations around the country who are using our In Your Hands DVDs and this website in their programmes as they work to reach the dads.


Who shaped Great Fathers? 2008

The concepts and ideas around Great Fathers and In Your Hands DVD weren’t conjured up in isolation. Dave honed these ideas as he met with the S.K.I.P. national office team, the DIYFather guys, the then chair of Brainwave Trust Aotearoa and various people from Save the Children, Caritas NZ, Violence Free Waitakere, South Auckland Family Violence Prevention Network, Ohomairangi Trust, the Families Commission, Jigsaw, Big Buddy, Barnardos, Parents Centre, Plunket, Manaaki Oranga as well as many, many midwives and childbirth educators. 

Making the In Your Hands DVD

A very important factor in getting the In Your Hands DVD actually made has been the partnership between Great Fathers and the Bishop’s Action Foundation through CEO Simon Cayley  in 2009. Dave says: "I’d been involved in lots of community-based projects – but I had no track record in the ‘parenting sector’. Moving under the umbrella of the well-respected Bishop’s Action Foundation gave me credibility.

This new found credibility led the Lion Foundation to grant just under half the funding needed to get started producing the In Your Hands DVD and the "What's It lIke to Be a Father" movie in it. A couple of months later the Todd Foundation granted the balance, which was enough to cover the costs for the 12 months it took to produce In Your Hands. Without these foundations' timely and generous financial support, this website and the In Your Hands DVD could not have been made.

Distribution is a challenge

It's all very well having a resource like In Your Hands, but it doesn't mean much if it doesn't get into the hands of new dads. Childbirth education classes are important places to distribute the DVD through because it's best to get the new dads before their baby is even born. Things can get quite hectic and busy after the event! Midwives are perhaps even more important to the distribution of In Your Hands  as they connect with nearly every birth in New Zealand and often have some interaction with the expecting dads. The DVD is available through this website and we've posted out hundreds. But the largest distribution of In Your Hands DVDs has been through the dozens and dozens of parenting support services in the community sector - who have been starved of resources that are aimed at men. 

“There are around 60,000 babies born in New Zealand every year. We have 60,000 opportunities to help men be great fathers.”

More from Dave Owens … on where Great Fathers came from

“In 2006 I was writing for The Jobs Letter and came across the work of Dr Robin Fancourt and Dr James Heckman. Their very diverse work (an NZ pediatrician and a US economist!) converged on the points of the Perry intervention group, attachment theory and the importance of giving attention to very young children.

Reading their findings, I was stunned that I didn't know that what happens to and around a baby creates the emotional foundation for the rest of his life. This is very important information … information that every parent, every adult needs to know. And yet I'd raise two girls and this was new information to me! And if I didn’t know this … most other men didn't know it, either.

To give some context to this in my own work, I've worked in the community sector in employment promotion for years. Now Dr Heckman was explaining why work schemes for teenagers and young adults is such uphill work: we are starting too late!

I decided that if I was to make a positive difference in the world (why else would you go to work?) the place to start is with children. But … if Dr Fancourt said the key neurodevelopment age for children is 0-3years … how do you work with kids so young? We have no institutions that work with 0-3year olds. But then, of course we do: it’s called parenthood.

So I had a look around the parenting support services to see how I might contribute. I'd never ventured near these particular community agencies before and when I met with them I was impressed by the dedication and skill of the staff. At the meetings I asked for I was always warmly welcome. But I couldn't help but notice there weren't many men around: staff or clients. Mostly there were none. And when I asked what services they provided for men, I was told their services were available to both parents … but they actually didn’t get many fathers coming in. There was puzzlement and concern about this, but these women had enough on their plates dealing with the parents (mothers) who did come through the door.

I wondered: how could you reach men? Especially at that critical, brain-development time of their child’s infancy. What if we focused on reaching him around the birth of his baby, that key time when a man is emotionally open and receptive? Could we make a gift to a new dad that would help spark his relationship with his baby? I thought of music: the most direct line to the emotions. A movie of cool, respected guys telling their own experience. Images that tell a story but don't require reading skills. I was getting a picture in my mind of what would become In Your Hands.

I self-funded myself part-time for a year, making several trips to Auckland and Wellington to see if the idea had legs. I met with lots of people, including those in organisations I listed earlier. I met psychologists, psychotherapists and a child psychiatrist. I did formal interviews with men about their experience in childbirth education classes and what they did and didn’t know (and wished they had known) by the time they took their baby home. And I talked to women about what they thought their man did and didn’t get from those classes. I talked to dozens and dozens and dozens of people. I discovered there is some research on fathering in New Zealand and that there is much more research being done in Australia and the UK, and there is excellent information on child neurodevelopment coming out of the US.

My earliest diary entries for what has become Great Fathers were in April 2008. We produced the first copies of In Your Hands DVDs in February 2010 and the website went live the next month. They’re a start. They are just a piece of what needs to be done. I'm willing to join hands with anyone who has the intention of empowering dads to be great fathers.

All the best,

Dave Owens

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Sex, Pregnancy and the Home Invasion
Your own Dad