Support Worker Michael has spent 25 years at Holdsworth, working with NDIS clients to build skills and independence, and of course, have a few laughs.
With age comes wisdom. After 25 years at Holdsworth, that’s certainly true for Michael. But he gives a wry smile when he says that many of his clients refer to him as ‘old man’ now. For new Holdsworth support staff, he’s a natural mentor because he knows there’s a fine balance between protecting your clients and trusting them to find their independence. Which is why he lets his clients get away with being so cheeky.
Early in his career, back in the United States where he grew up, Michael remembers being told he was the worst support worker in the world. It wasn’t true. It was just the wrong organisation for him. In fact, he’s since been told he’s the best support worker in the world. And that may well be true, especially for some of the people he interacts with. For Michael, though, his role at Holdsworth is not about the accolades, it’s about finding joy.
Talking to Michael, you can’t help but smile. And that’s because his clients’ journeys make him smile. When he explains about the improv (improvisation) work he does with clients as part of drama therapy, he says: “I’m laughing for three days afterwards, and for me, that’s being alive.”
With Michael, there’s always time for a joke. He finds light in almost any situation – and his clients love it. Sometimes innocent bystanders step in, but usually he and his client just move away, giggling to themselves. When he walks into the room, people light up. He’s a natural storyteller, and he encourages others to find their stories and their voices, too. He claims he gets to do ‘all the fun bits’ as part of his role at Holdsworth, but with Michael, his zest for life makes that his reality no matter what.
Michael is especially proud when clients use his teachings to work through a challenging situation – like being reminded to breathe or talk through their feelings during a difficult interaction in public. It’s those sort of poignant moments that are so bittersweet for Michael, because it sometimes means his clients are ready to set new NDIS goals and find new ways to grow – and sometimes that’s without him.
A quarter of a century at one organisation means Michael’s seen many rise through the ranks, and many changes for the better. He’s seen Holdsworth grow and change in response to the community’s needs, just as he’s watched his clients develop and thrive. He’s in the wings, or sometimes taking a starring role, cheering them on, from their first achievements through to speeches at their weddings, always beaming with pride.