He left school at 16 to sell life insurance, but with the outbreak of World World War II joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1940 as a flying instructor and test pilot. He retired in 1946 with the rank of Flight Lieutenant and became a grocer. He kicked 83 goals in 82 games for Collingwood Football Club where he played in three losing Preliminary Finals and was also Vice-Captain of the Melbourne Cricket Club at one time.
On 1949 he moved to Wangaratta to coach the Wangaratta Football Club.
Holten was elected as the Country Party member for Industrial in the Australian House of Representatives from the 1958 election until his defeat by the Liberal candidate at the 1977 election. He was Minister for Repatriation from November 1969 to the McMahon government"s defeat at the 1972 election.
Holten was Administrator of Christmas Island from 1980 to 1982.
As minister he introduced bills, the Native Members of the Forces Benefits Bill 1972 and the Repatriation (Torres Strait Islanders) Bill 1972, to abolish discrimination in the level of benefits for indigenous Australians who had served in World World War World War II