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Sistema Aotearoa

Sistema Aotearoa is a programme operating in Otara that uses orchestral music-making as a means of social development.  It provides children and young people from low socio-economic groups with the opportunity to learn a musical instrument and play in an orchestra with no tuition fee attached. 

The Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) launched Sistema Aotearoa as a pilot programme in 2011.  Central government funding for the pilot ended in December 2016.  Sistema Aotearoa now operates as an independent charitable trust, supported by community funding, and working in close partnership with the APO.

Since 2011 over 2,500 New Zealand children have been impacted by Sistema Aotearoa.  In 2016 more than 1,000 Māori and Pasifika children, aged 2 to 14 years, participated in the programme’s diverse activities, including community pre-school music sessions, concert performances, in-school music lessons, and instrumental tuition after school and in school holidays.

Sistema Aotearoa is based upon El Sistema, one of the world’s most successful music and social development programmes.  El Sistema began over 30 years ago in Venezuela and many other countries have successfully adapted the model to suit their own needs.

Further information about Sistema Aotearoa can be found on the programme’s website at:


In December 2015 the Ministry in collaboration with the APO, commissioned an independent evaluation of Sistema Aotearoa, which found the programme is likely to be contributing to the achievement of positive outcomes in many areas, both for participating children and for their wider aiga/whānau.

Sistema Aotearoa outcome evaluation report

Manukau Courier - Strings boost confidence (03 February 2016)

In March 2013 Auckland UniServices Limited, a wholly owned company of The University of Auckland, released an independent evaluation of the music learning outcomes in the Sistema Aotearoa Programme.

Sistema Aotearoa Full Report March 2013

The Auckland University of Technology (AUT) released a report in November 2012 which set out the findings of an evaluation of the trial programme.

AUT Evaluation of Sistema Aotearoa report

Minister welcomes recognition of Sistema Aotearoa success

Related links

Watch the Sistema Aotearoa orchestras perform on Youtube

Scoop 08 March 2017 - Operatunity raises $11,000 for Sistema Aotearoa

Sistema Aotearoa section on the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra's website

Manukau Courier 12 June 2014 - A touch of master class for students

Manukau Courier 12 March 2013 - Orchestra is taking shape and growing

NZ Herald February 2016 article - Creative subjects battling for mana

Updated on 7th October 2019