16 August 2005, Michael Hurst was one of 24 recipients of
Queen's Birthday Honours to be officially invested into the
New Zealand Order of Merit. The morning event took place at
Government House Auckland in a high-ceilinged solarium with
a roof shape and structure reminiscent of a waka (Maori canoe).
honorees included business people, academics, community activists,
military personnel, sports leaders, and a young man who had
risked his life to save a child from drowning. They had
been selected for recognition because of their extraordinary
contributions to their respective fields, or for service to
the community. The ceremony required each to stand while
a citation of his or her achievements was read, then proceed
to the small raised dais at the front to receive their medal
and the personal congratulations of Dame Silvia Cartwright,
Governor-General of New Zealand. As they returned to
their seats, they received the applause of the assembled family
concluded with the singing of the New Zealand national anthem,
in Maori and then English; Jennifer's and Michael's strong,
proud voices could be clearly heard.
formal ceremony, Dame Silvia shook hands with Jack and Cameron--the
only children in attendance--and chatted with Michael and
Jennifer. Unfortunately, the Hurst/Ward-Lealand family
could linger only briefly because the boys needed to get back
to school, and Michael and Jennifer to afternoon rehearsal
for their next play, The Goat. Little time
for celebration when there's more extraordinary work to be
in the next day's Dominion Post talked about Michael's
state of mind on the day: "Years of stage experience
did little to quell Michael Hurst's nerves as he was made
an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit yesterday. 'I
was quite nervous. This is such an honour,' the actor
and director said."
As an interesting
side note, Caine Spick, the young hero who saved the child
from drowning, revealed in the same article that "one
of the highlights yesterday was meeting Mr. Hurst. 'I
looked at him for a second and then put it together,' said
the teenager and self-confessed Hercules fan."
Below the pictures there
is a message from Michael to everyone who has supported him
over the years.
The awardees take their seats in the front row;
Michael at center
Michael stands while his citation is read:
Michael Eric Hurst of Grey Lynn for services to film and the
Since beginning his
theatrical career thirty years ago, Mr. Hurst has been an actor,
director, producer, singer, writer, voice actor, fight choreographer,
celebrity debater, and master of ceremonies. He has appeared
on film, television, radio, theatre, and live performance with
over 100 roles to his credit. He has also directed some
forty plays, including Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello,
and Jesus Christ Superstar. He is especially
well known for his work on Hercules and Xena
where his contribution was recognized by a Best Supporting Television
Actor Award in 1997. He has taught at Performing Arts
School, the Public Works Performing Arts Centre, New Zealand
Drama School, University of Auckland, and School of Performing
and Screen Arts. Mr. Hurst contributes greatly to New
Zealand charities and causes including libraries, cerebral palsy,
child cancer, and Youthline."
Dame Silvia Cartwright, Governor-General of New
congratulates Michael on his achievements.
She then pins the medal of the ONZM onto his lapel.
Michael and Jennifer chat with
Dame Silvia after the ceremony.
Jennifer, Cameron, Michael, and Jack
Cameron takes daddy's medal in hand so
can get a better
to Beth Sundberg for the pics)
Michael with Cameron and Jack
| On the occasion
of his investiture as an Officer of the New Zealand Order
of Merit, Michael Hurst sends this thoughtful note of
thanks to all of his supporters:
was very moved to find out that I had been recommended
for this honour. I had no idea that it was imminent and
to realize that others had thought my contribution to
the art form worthy of such recognition was both humbling
have always thought that I work in this industry not
because I want to, but because I have to. I am compelled
to communicate in this way, especially in theatre, and
the personal (I guess spiritual) reward for me is immense.
Being awarded the ONZM is a wonderful acknowledgement
of the fact that the arts are a health issue for any
community, because that is what I believe and
how I choose to work at what I do.
I owe much to, and am grateful for, the people out there
who support my work, and have supported it over the
years. Without this commitment from audiences on both
a communal and personal level, I couldn't do what I
do. I am very fortunate to be able to be a conduit for
whatever messages need to be transmitted and, while
I acknowledge that I work hard, I thank my stars that
the universe has yielded the conditions that have allowed
me to be what I am.
The ONZM is a great honour of which I am very proud.
the New Zealand Order of Merit
to the Honours
website, the Order is "for those persons who in any
field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the
Crown and nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence,
talents, contributions or other merits." The Order
is an Order of Chivalry which, in 1996, replaced the appointment
of New Zealand citizens to British Orders of Chivalry.
A complete list of Queen's Birthday Honours recipients for 2005
can be found here.
also appears in the New Zealand Herald where Michael is
also briefly mentioned in one of the articles
about the honorees.
five levels within the Order of Merit, with the great majority
of awards being made at the lowest level, 'Member of the New
Zealand Order of Merit'. 'Officer' is the next level up,
followed by 'Companions', 'Distinguished Companions', and 'Principal
Companions'. Michael will be entitled to wear, on appropriate
occasions, the insignia designating his appointment, and to
use the initials ONZM after his name.
appointments are made to people from all walks of life, only
a small number of performers have been so honoured over the
years. But even a quick look at Michael's curriculum
vitae will leave little doubt as to what the Honours
committee saw that impressed them--truly an incredible career.
Michael has done a short interview for MichaelHurstNow.
Click here to read it, beginning
with question #1: What does it mean to you to have been
made an Officer of the New Zealand order of Merit? . . .