Meet the Kokonut Pacific-Niulife Team
Dan Etherington — Founder and Managing Director
Dan is the founder and inspiration behind Kokonut Pacific. He was raised on a farm in Kenya and following National Service as a pilot studied Economics at Rhodes University in South Africa (where he met his wife, Maureen), and Agricultural Economics at Cornell and Stanford Universities in the USA. He taught at the University of Nairobi until 1972 when he moved to the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. At the ANU his studies of the coconut industries in Asia, Africa & the South Pacific convinced him of the need for a village-based technology to produce coconut oil as value-added alternative to exporting crude copra. In 1994 he founded Kokonut Pacific as a social enterprise and retired from the ANU in 1997 to commercialise the Direct Micro Expelling (DME) technology he had invented.
DME was awarded a Medal by EXPO2000 in Germany as a sustainable “World Project.”
- In 2006 Kokonut Pacific’s work in the Solomon Islands was awarded the Ryutaro Hashimoto Gold Award by the Asia Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED) for its work in ‘Rehabilitating a rural economy with virgin coconut oil production.’
- In 2008, Dan was awarded Membership of the of the Order of Australia for his innovations in small-scale coconut processing and contributions to sustainable agriculture and economic development in the South Pacific.
“Dr. Dan” is a respected authority on coconuts and remains passionate about the potential of the “tree of life.” He and Maureen have three children, nine grandchildren and are active in their local church.
Maureen Etherington — Company Quality Control
Maureen was born in South Africa and met Dan at university where she was training to be a teacher. They married in 1962 and Kenya became their home for 10 years until they emigrated to Australia with their three small children. With their African roots and Christian faith, Maureen and Dan both have a heart for the poor and Maureen has supported Dan’s vision from the beginning. Both feel that God has led them into this coconut venture and they see His hand in every step along the way. The Kokonut Pacific office and warehouse is a fun and busy place where everyone works in harmony and Maureen enjoys supporting the gifted and committed people who have joined the team. At last muster she and Dan had nine grandchildren and they celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary in 2012.
Ian Gray — Operations Manager
Ian, a boilermaker/welder by trade, has been involved with the work of Kokonut Pacific since 1992 (even before Kokonut Pacific’s inception in 1994) with the manufacturing of the DME Coconut Oil Press and associated equipment. Ian met Dan and Maureen at church when he moved to Canberra in 1989. There he met their boarder, Martha, and when they were married the next year Ian and Martha settled in Queanbeyan where our warehouse is located. Ian was initially employed to manufacture equipment but as a market for the oil began to develop his role expanded. Ian has been involved in most aspects of the business and enjoyed trips to Fiji, the Solomon Islands and the Philippines. He is now actively involved in the management of the business and loves the varied work, the mission of the company and the challenge of something new. Ian has been married to Martha for over 20 years and they have 2 teenage daughters.
Richard Etherington — Business/Product Development Manager, Director
Richard is an ideas man and enjoys developing new products and new business opportunities… which is handy for a Business Development Manager! With a degree in Rural Science and diploma in Permaculture he has been a director of Kokonut Pacific since the year dot (1994 actually). He brings his experience in agriculture and Landcare Australia to the Development and Fair Trade side of the business, having lived and worked in the Pacific and Africa over the years. Richard has travelled widely all over the world, and has attended international trade fairs in Europe, Asia and Australia. He resigned from his work with NSW Agriculture in order to join the team at Kokonut Pacific in 2004. Richard cycles to work, leads the local Cub Scouts and grows veggies with his neighbours. He is very community-minded, and has a strong drive to protect the environment. He is married to Jacqui and together with their three energetic young kids enjoys riding to church, offering hospitality and having adventures.
Peter Ehsman — Sales Manager
Peter is the enthusiastic bloke on the end of the phone. He is passionate about life and so loves what we are doing at Niulife that he volunteered here until we gave him a job! He started driving the forklift, pumping the oil, packing a perfect pallet and chatting to our courier in Nepali. His enthusastic commitment to the cause saw him promoted to Sales Manager in 2015 after he initiated and implemented his own sales mission to Tasmania. Peter grew up in the Canberra region on a vineyard with a few sheep. He has always had an interest in other languages and cultures, which led him to study linguistics and a few languages at uni. He has lived and worked in China, avoided a war in the Middle East, and carried his swag across a few other countries in between his studies and working in viticulture. Peter speaks Mandarin, Arabic and English, is a keen rock climber, a great cook and fell in love with a circus performer! He and Jen met through church, married and bought a house where they are happily eating their way through a a huge veggie garden.
Hannah Donnelly — Office and Accounts Manager
Hannah brings with her valuable retail experience gained in a range of jobs, most recently as manager of a large pharmacy business. She has taken to the coconut world like a duck to water and is usually first to answer the phone. She is also a pro on the database and packing table, handling orders and accounts. Hannah grew up in Queanbeyan and first met Ian at church youth group. She loved horses and riding in the bush but became less enthusiastic each time she was thrown, kicked or bitten! Hannah now prefers the company of her good human friends, especially one particular fellow.
Castaly Lombe — General Manager
Cas loves building and growing enterprises. She started her first business aged 14. For 20 years she owned and managed several software development companies as “Chief of Makin’ It Happen.” Cas came to Kokonut Pacific looking for new challenges and to satisfy her personal desire to work in social enterprise to change the world and make it a better place. She has an arts degree in journalism and has worked in marketing, media, politics, advocacy and most recently as an executive in a Not for Profit. She loves telling stories and awakening, moving and opening people to possibilities in their own lives and in this awesome world of ours. She has lived in a solar and wind powered house on 200 acres in the Snowy Mountains region south of Canberra and has two almost grown up sons. In her spare time she paints, ride her beloved horses and tries new ways to garden with limited water. She also writes, reads and campaigns for social causes, loves cooking and bushwalking. Cas is a fitness nut, was once a gymnast, can still do cartwheels, does yoga on mountain tops and has a black belt in martial arts.
Dereje Aby — Warehouse Assistant
Dereje — or DJ — joined the team in early 2014 as warehouse assistant to help Hannah and Peter pack, pump and place orders. He loves soccer and talks about it every chance he gets, “Go Brazil”! Dereje is a graduate in Development Studies and Education so the company’s mission “Empowering and bringing hope” suits him greatly. He is keen to demonstrate that ‘together we can do more!”
DJ was born in a small country town in Ethiopia, where he spent most of his childhood looking after a farm and livestock. At 13 he moved to the capital Addis Ababa, went to school, then to Daystar University and graduated in 2011. He received a scholarship to study in Kosin University in South Korea and stayed there for two years. DJ moved to Australia in 2013. He lives in Canberra where he met his wife — what a wedding that was!!… Judging from his smile, he seems to enjoy his life in Australia and his job at Kokonut Pacific!
Nigel Posthuma — Warehouse Manager
Nigel is our easy going Warehouse Manager quietly looking after inventory, work health safety and the multitude of details required to track everything that moves in and out, on and off and up and down! He started at Kokonut Pacific in 2015 with an impressive list of handy-man skills. Of Dutch origins he was born in the “Gong” (Wollongong) — maybe that’s where he gets his love of European & Aussie football? He started his working life at the BHP Steel Works in maintenance and was the go-to fix-it man at major hotels and schools before giving the police force a go and learning all about the law, lawlessness and himself under pressure. He loves working with his hands and has a passion for woodworking, photography and gardening. He’s an active member of the Queanbeyan Uniting Church, having grown up in the Reformed Church and committing his life to faith when he was 16. He’s built houses in the Solomon Islands as part of his love to serve and support those in need. With his wife (biggest love of his life) Julie and their six “billy lids” (kids), Nigel’s favorite car is a people mover and he’s into home renovations for his castle in the rural bliss of Bungendore. He strongly identifies with the mission of Kokonut Pacific and joined the team because of the company’s alignment with his own personal goals.
Paul Horowitz — Marketing Manager
Paul loves connecting people to inspiring products, which makes him a Jedi Marketing Master and a perfect fit in the Niulife team. He’s a graduate of Marketing and IT from the University of Wollongong and a long-time consumer of coconut. Paul picked Niulife as his new job life because of its focus on social responsibility. He’s been impressed by the ability of the DME process to empower people’s lives positively, especially in the remote, rural coconut communities of developing countries. Paul began his journey by jumping into the deep-end of challenges, starting a business straight out of Uni. The business ended up growing pretty big, a testimony to his marketing smarts. As the business grew, Paul moved to Canberra where he could help many more businesses develop great connections with their customers.In Canberra Paul met his future wife Anna and together they have a young family. Paul is a devoted Dad spending 18 months — again in the deep end — getting a new appreciation of domestic bliss as a stay-at-home Father. An avid basketball fan and coffee snob, Paul will usually be the guy on the other end of the computer writing the newsletter or posting to social media. And he does love to chat, so feel free to jump onto Facebook and say hi!