Village Games Festival: children love playing our traditional pacific games 

The atmosphere at The Village Games Festival in Ōtara on 25 March was electric with cheers, excitement, joy, and laughter.  

100 pupils from Rongomai School, Flat Bush School and Wymondley Road School clashed on the sports field playing traditional pacific games. 

The Village Games Festival marked six weeks of learning and playing village games during term one of school – Heu/Heulupe (Tonga), Lape (Samoa), Te Ano (Tuvalu) and Te Bwaani (Kiribati). 

Reflecting on the day’s events, Vae Falaniko, a classroom teacher, shared, “It’s been a positively encouraging day for all the pupils involved, especially our children from Rongomai School.” 

“Village Games serve as an important learning tool as it links to pacific cultures, languages as well as helping to get children physically active in schools.  I’d love to see more pacific games incorporated in the sports curriculum, so young people across Ōtara and New Zealand gain a deeper understanding of pacific cultures and games.” 

Rongomai Teacher Vae Falaniko and pupils 

Moiho Leaupepe, a Music Teacher at Flat Bush School, expressed his delight at the children’s enthusiasm for playing Pacific games. 

“It’s wonderful to see our children from Ōtara coming together to participate in the Village Games festival. Some of these games were entirely new to me prior to our kids playing it during the past six weeks,” he says. 

“I’ve been genuinely impressed by the level of skill displayed by all involved today. The children have been having lots of fun playing village games and at times it’s been competitive. Just imagine if they had trained for these games, it would’ve taken the skills to another level which they can use in other sports like rugby, netball and cricket to name a few.” 

The Village Games movement was established by Healthy Families South Auckland in 2020 with community champions and activators sharing their cultural expertise on traditional games from various Pacific Islands. These games were shared online through a video series:  

In 2023/24, the village games movement has continued to build momentum with Healthy Families South Auckland collaborating local Ōtara schools. 

“The Village Games Festival has been a great celebration of culture, learning and play. Healthy Families South Auckland got to work with four fantastic schools (Bairds Mainfreight Primary wasn’t available on the day) who have been open to learning about traditional pacific games, their history, and origins, and using them to get physically active as part of their physical education sessions,” says Pita Alatini, Lead Systems Innovator for Movement and Sport. 

“I’m a local Ōtara boy who grew up in the area. It’s been an amazing journey to see local schools playing traditional games from our homelands like Tonga, Tuvalu, and Samoa. We’d love to see the village games movement expand into more South Auckland schools and the rest of Auckland” he adds. 

“A special thank you to CLM Community Sport for access to funding to help us deliver Village Games in schools. Without their support, the village games roll out, and today’s Festival, would not have been possible. Their collaboration with Healthy Families South Auckland and local schools, demonstrates that when funders and community come together we can accelerate a movement for positive change.”