About Big Buddy

Big Buddy is a free, secular, mentoring service run by dedicated professionals who recruit and rigorously screen male volunteers from the community to become mentors to fatherless boys. We are a registered charity, governed by the Big Buddy Mentoring Trust, and audited annually. The award-winning programme currently covers the Greater Auckland, North Shore/Rodney, Hamilton and Wellington regions, with expansion plans covering the rest of New Zealand.

Our kaupapa

Big Buddy Mentoring Trust envisions a community in which every boy experiences a nurturing one-to-one relationship with at least one adult male. Our highest vision is that every fatherless boy in New Zealand who needs one, will have a good male mentor to guide him into adulthood with true self-worth, enabling him to make positive life choices towards living a life of purpose and meaning as an involved member of our community.

Our whakapapa

Big Buddy was started by Warwick Pudney in 1997 under the umbrella of Man Alive – an Auckland-based social agency working with and for men. The vision was to help fatherless boys become better men through mentoring. When current CEO Richard Aston took over Big Buddy in late 2002, it was still a fledgling, paper-based organisation with very few matches and considerable structural and funding challenges. With a background in management, corporate IT and sales, Richard focused his business skills into building a sustainable funding base before setting about creating a rigorous screening process and database that could support robust mentoring matches.

Big Buddy History

Standing alone

Steve Sobota became Big Buddy’s first coordinator in 2003 and in 2004 Big Buddy separated out from Man Alive and became a stand-alone agency administered by the Big Buddy Mentoring Trust – committed to expanding its mentoring programme across New Zealand for the well-being of fatherless boys. The founding trustees were Wally Thomas (current), Alan Blackburn (left 2005), Michael Jones (left 2005), Mike Murphy (left 2010) and Richard Aston (current). They were joined by Andrew Cook in 2005 and Travis Field (current chair) and Mark Talbot (current) in 2011.

Growing roots

Big Buddy Head Office, auckland
Original Head Office at Te Atatu South


Coordinator Stephen Bell joined the team in early 2005 and the Big Buddy website was up and running later that year. By mid-2006 the agency’s head office had moved to Strid Rd in Te Atatu and Tony Holloway began a four-year stint as bursar – leaving in mid-2010 when Kim Bramwell took over the role with support from Jean Green. Meanwhile, Jude Gillies had come aboard as funding officer 2009.

Another Auckland office opened in Takapuna in mid-2008, covering North Shore/Rodney, under the stewardship of coordinator Martin Hosking – the same year as Scott Savidge took the helm at the new Wellington office covering central Wellington and Upper and Lower Hutt. The Wellington office coordinator changed in mid 2012 when Andrew Morrison took over the role.

Strong support

Wellington Office
Wellington Office


The team has been clinically supported over the last 13 years by psychologists John Bryant, Doug Dunlop and Eric Medcalf, as well as by a number of supervisors. Psychotherapist Andrew Jones started in 2010, and was joined by John Kingston and Rick Williment in 2012, and Ric Church in 2015.

Other significant supporters of Big Buddy include the late Bruce Mackie (ex-Director of Lifeline) from the beginning to his passing in 2011; ex-Waitakere City Mayor Bob Harvey (who challenged us to take the programme out of the West and across New Zealand) and our long-term mentors, who we have learned much from: Cyril Wright (1998); Mark Robson (1999); Jacques Delange and Brian McKillop (2001); Bruce Walker, Julian Morris and Brett Wright (2003); Roger Firth, Warren Lowe and Stephen Moorehead (2004).

After seven years of largely voluntary work managing Big Buddy’s communications, Ruth Kerr won a Vodafone World of Difference Gem Award in 2010, which funded her to focus on building Big Buddy’s media profile. She continues her role as Media Coordinator.

Of course none of Big Buddy’s growth could happen without the support of our funders and supporters. To see who these essential people and organisations are, please go to  FUNDERS or SUPPORTERS


The best-laid plans ...

The economic recession that hit New Zealand in late 2008 put paid to expansion plans into Christchurch – fortunately as it turned out because the office secured was destroyed in the February 2011 earthquake.

Head Office Avondale

A new home and some tough decisions

Strid Rd went on the market and in early 2012 and Big Buddy’s head office moved to its current location in Great North Rd, Avondale.


However, the double financial crises of late 2008/09 - 2011/12 finally impacted severely on the organisation in March 2013, necessitating the decision to reduce the number of coordinators from three to two in the Auckland region. Consequently, Martin Hosking resigned as a coordinator and following a restructure in late 2013, Stephen Bell was made redundant. In early 2014, a small increase in funding enabled Martin Hosking to return as a part-time contractor and he continues to support Steve Sobota and Dave Burcher (who replaced Andrew as Wellington coordinator in August 2015).

The economic tides began turning in 2014 as funders and donors started hauling out of their own financial woes. Having weathered some some very challenging times and consolidated through the recession, Big Buddy is now looking towards expansion again and CEO Richard Aston is developing plans. This is in conjunction with funding help from the Ministry of Social Development following an extensive Capability Review in late 2013.

The Big Buddy Foundation is born

Another significant development in 2014 was Big Buddy trustees Travis Field and Mark Talbot - with support from Andrew Cook and Big Buddy supporter Roger Moses - establishing the Big Buddy Foundation, with the goal of creating a capital fund of $10m by 2020. Returns from this fund will eventually provide the majority of operational funding for Big Buddy, increase its reach to more fatherless boys and underpin the financial stability of the organisation.

The foundation was officially launched by Prime Minister John Key and Willie Apiata VC on the 26th June 2014 at the Nathan Club in Britomart, Auckland. Willie Apiata VC has accepted a role as 'Big Buddy' to the foundation. The trustees of the foundation are Travis Field, Grant Fox, Jeff Meltzer (chair) and Mark Talbot.

Grant Fox, Travis Field, Mark Talbot, BB CEO Richard Aston, Jeff Meltzer and Roger Moses at the launch of the Big Buddy Foundation
Grant Fox, Travis Field, Mark Talbot, BB CEO Richard Aston, Jeff Meltzer and Roger Moses at the launch of the Big Buddy Foundation

In early 2016, Clare Wilson joined the Foundation, adding her considerable skills as New Zealand Trade & Enterprises' regional director for Australia and Pacific to help grow the organisation.

Change of chair

In August 2014 Andrew Cook stepped down from his role as Board Chairman and Travis Field was voted onto the chair. Andrew joined the board in 2005, becoming Chairman in 2006 - during 8 years service as Chairman he only missed one meeting! Just like our mentors, Andrew was in for the long haul and we greatly appreciate his wise steering of the Big Buddy waka over those years. Andrew remains as a trustee and our legal adviser.

Head office updates

In July 2015 Wellington coordinator Andrew Morrison left for a role in men's mental health and in August we were joined by Dave Burcher, who brings an extensive teaching background to the Wellington coordinator position.

In preparation for a restructuring of roles within Big Buddy to streamline the recruiting, screening, matching and support processes, a new CRM database was developed and went live in September 2015. The restructuring, which will enable Big Buddy to expand the programme nationally, saw Steve Sobota move into the role of Programme Manager and Martin Hosking become Coordinator & Volunteer Recruiter in February 2016.

We also said goodbye to our fundraiser extraordinaire - the remarkable Jude Gillies - in February 2016. Jude joined the Big Buddy team in 2009 and dedicated herself over seven years to raising money to help grow the programme.

Russell Joyce has taken over the fundraising role from Jude, bringing with him skills as a journalist, a public relations manager and, most recently, a probation officer.

In late 2014 CEO Richard Aston and Media Coordinator Ruth Kerr were approached by publisher Allen & Unwin to co-author a book on raising boys. 70,000 words later, 'Our boys - Raising strong, happy sons from boyhood to manhood' was published on June 27, 2016.

Expansion plans

In March 2016, Nic Heywood joined the team as the new coordinator for South Auckland. He was joined in May 2016 by Andrew McFadden - the new coordinator for Hamilton. Expanding the programme into South Auckland and Hamilton was made possible through the support of ITM, GJ Gardner Homes, justONE and DB Breweries, along with other suppliers and sponsors who are contributing to the building of two houses that will be auctioned in April 2017 towards funding expansion.

In December 2016, the Big Buddy head office moved up the road to 39 Roberton Rd in Avondale Auckland. This followed redevelopment of the Great North Rd site.

After nearly 15 years - working in both a voluntary and paid capacity - our Media Coordinator, Ruth Kerr, left in March 2017 to pursue other writing projects. During her time at Big Buddy Ruth has made a significant contribution to raising both our public profile and credibility with funders.

For more information about Big Buddy go to MORE ABOUT US

Keen to help? Donations are the life blood of Big Buddy.