Michael was 16 when he won the junior section of the first Frances Clarke Awards in 1990. It was presented at Government House by Governor-General the Rt Hon Sir Paul Reeves.
Thirty years – and six Governors-General – later, Michael has won the award again for decades of service to the Wellington Down Syndrome Association and to IHC.
Michael is no stranger to Government House. For most of the past 30 years he has played the piano at the Frances Clarke Awards. He started music lessons as a child and has continued to play throughout his adult life. In 2010, he was presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Governor-General Rt Hon Sir Anand Satyanand for his services as pianist.
He also played the grand piano to entertain guests at Government House in 2006 for the 25th anniversary of the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association. During lockdown Michael recorded his piano playing to share with his colleagues at IHC.
In 2012 he was presented with a New Zealand Down Syndrome Association National Achievement Award by Governor-General Lt Gen the Rt Hon Sir Jerry Mateparae.
Michael lives and breathes sport. If he is not playing it, or training for it, he is watching it. He has a proud record of achievement as a sportsman, as a competitive alpine skier and swimmer in Special Olympics New Zealand events in New Zealand and overseas. He has competed at the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria twice – in 1993 and again in 2017.
In 2010 he was named as one of Special Olympics first Global Messengers – ambassadors working in the community to promote the impact of Special Olympics on the lives of people with disabilities. In that role he has presented at seminars around New Zealand. He was a guest at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles, where he presented a medal at the swimming competition. In 2017 was given the honour of lighting the Flame of Hope together with New Zealand Police Assistant Commissioner in the lead-up to the Special Olympics Summer Games in Wellington.
In 2019 Michael was part of a team involved in coaching young children with intellectual disabilities through Special Olympics’ Young Athletes Sport and Play Programme.
Michael is the longest-serving staff member in the IHC Library, where he has worked for the past 26 years. He works on the front desk at the library greeting visitors and dealing with inquiries. He also mentors people who come to the library on work placements. In 2018, on the 50th anniversary of the library, Michael was called on to make a speech and cut the cake with IHC Head of Library and Information Resourcing Philip Clarke.
Photo caption: Michael Holdsworth entertains guests at Government House for the New Zealand Down Syndrome Association 25th anniversary in 2006. Photograph: Stuff