Some of Rotorua's youngest residents came together yesterday to share what makes each of them unique- their culture.

More than 200 children took part in the Early Childhood Education Cultural Festival where a range of performances were shared with whānau and the wider community at Rotorua's Harvest Centre.

ABC Kawaha Point's centre manager, Margaret Day, said it was the first time the centre had taken part but it was great to see 15 different groups involved.

"Today is about embracing and celebrating all different cultures," she said.


The centre's 3 and 4-year-olds were dressed in traditional Māori outfits and shared their own waiata with the audience.

Day said celebrating Māori culture was a part of everyday life for the centre and something the children loved to do.

Tamariki from ABC Kawaha Point performed in the festival. Photo/ Ben Fraser
Tamariki from ABC Kawaha Point performed in the festival. Photo/ Ben Fraser

But the festival was not only about sharing Māori culture, but all cultures.

Children with Indian, Chinese, Filipino and Pacific Island heritage were among those who shared songs and dances unique to them.

Best Start professional services manager for Rotorua, Lesley Gambles, said four Best Start centres took part in the festival and there was "great multicultural representation" within the Rotorua centres.

She said ABC Kawaha Point, ABC Rotorua Central and TopKids Pukuatua all had high Māori family enrolments.

Gambles said these centres looked at child identity including what iwi they belong to, what were their mountains, river, waka and the myths and legends that were local to the area.

At Rotorua Central, children explored the story of Hinemoa and Tutanekei, as well as visiting the point that Hinemoa landed to meet her lover, Tutanekai.


"Tamariki created beautiful rocks for this story so they can tell the story through the rocks, as well as creating a play," Gambles said.

She said a cultural committee was in place for the eight Rotorua centres and had worked hard on tikanga practice and the way they address it in all the centres.

"Tikanga practice is written up for every room, and our centres open the day with a karakia and close at the end of the day with a karakia.

"There are many different versions of prayer or karakia to reflect different cultures," Gambles said.

"We are more responsive than ever to multiple cultures, through the cultural committee and all centres belong to communities of learning (kahui ako)."

Best Start Māori enrolments:
ABC Kawaha Point- 81 per cent.
ABC Rotorua Central- 41 per cent.
Topkids Pukautua- 57 per cent.