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 - I began to understand how fragile and impressionable young babies' brains (minds) are. I felt a great anguish about 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 after they had grown up.

The science behind this wasn't well defined in the 1970s and 80s, and most of us were unaware of how important of a baby's early experiences are.The neuroscience behind how babies' minds are formed and how their brains are affected by what goes on around them (their parents' behaviour) is available now. And it needs to become common knowledge that everyone has.

The intention behind Great Fathers is to present this important information in a way that men can really take it in so that they can be the fathers their children need them to be. We have aimed at it fathers because there is so little information or resources available in forms that men can relate to. The maternity and parenting support services often treat fathers as an after thought, if they consider them at all.

While Great Fathers is designed for men, it is 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 and for seven years he was a self employed builder. 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 (through AVI as VSA didn't then have a presence there then) when East Timor (now Timor Leste) was suffering from 25 years of occumpation and then violent separation from Indonesia. Dave worked with a local community group there and 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 began writing for The Jobs Letter. From early 2007 Dave began developing the first ideas that would become the In Your Hands DVD - and Great Fathers. In March 2009 he began working full-time on Great Fathers with the intention of encouraging all dads to be great fathers - with a focus on new dads. 

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).

From there, we remain deeply greatful to the Todd Foundation who saw the value of Great Fathers from on and supported us when we were getting our feet. They generously invited us into their Partnership Fund for 2012.

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. We have produced a variety of further resources - but we have never taken our eye off our intial kaupapa: the well being of infants and toddlers.

We commend the many organisations around the country who are using our resources as they work to reach the dads of yong children.

“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 both 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 lays the emotional foundation for the rest of their life. This is very important information … information that every parent, every adult needs to know. And yet my wife and 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, I worked in the community sector around unemployment and jobs for years. Nobel Prize winner Dr Heckman was now explaining why work schemes and other programmes for teenagers and young adults is such uphill work: we are starting too late!

If 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 had 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, when pressed, they admitted that they didn’t get many fathers coming in. These women were often puzzleed and even concerned about this, but they 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. 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 research 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."

That our development history. Great Fathers is willing to join hands with anyone who has the intention of empowering dads to be the fathers their children need them to be.

Ordinary men make great fathers."

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Your baby's brain
Crikey! Your own baby
Why babies cry
The Zombie Zone
Sex, Pregnancy and the Home Invasion
Your own Dad