Brainwave was formed in November 1998 in response to new scientific evidence on the impact that experiences in the early years have on the brain development of a child. The catalyst was when the late Dr Robin Fancourt (pictured far right, bottom row) – a New Plymouth paediatrician and Dr Bruce Perry, an American neuroscientist and child psychiatrist, spoke at the 12th ISPCAN (International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) conference in Auckland in September 1998. Brainwave was founded by Dr Robin Fancourt, Judy Bailey, Dame Lesley Max and Sir Ian Hassall, with the purpose of sharing this information to ensure children had a great start to life.

In 2004, The Aotearoa/New Zealand Infant Brain Development Trust was incorporated under the Charitable Trusts Act and in 2009 Brainwave Trust Aotearoa was registered with the Charities Commission. In 2003, Dr Fancourt was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for her services to children — recognising a lifetime of commitment to children. Brainwave Trust Aotearoa are committed to building upon the work she began back in 1998.