It’s been over a decade since the passing of one of Australia’s greatest wildlife heroes. Not only did he take a family passion and build upon it, he also built upon the lives of people worldwide; educating them and showing them just how great wildlife is. Steve Irwin had a passion like no other; a passion that he shared with his wife, Terri and has been carried down to his children, Bindi and Robert.
The other day I stumbled across ‘My Steve’, the book that Terri wrote and published a year after Steve’s death. When I first bought the book I was a little too young to comprehend what I was reading and never got around to finishing it. However, in the midst of a clean out I rediscovered the book and felt the urge to read it. At first I was sad to start the book because I knew that at some point in time Steve’s death would be brought up, but I wanted to know about Steve’s life and what he achieved before his unfortunate accident through the eyes of someone who spent just about every waking minute of the day with him.
Like his children, I was young when Steve passed away. I have fond memories of watching his documentaries with my siblings, being so drawn into the way he displayed and talked about the animals he was showcasing to the world on the screen in front of us. Just as Terri mentions in the book, Steve was great in front of the camera and as a viewer at times it felt like Steve’s gaze was looking straight through the lens; it was like you were right there with him.
This book isn’t just about all the good times though. Terri also opened up about their struggles financially and the issues they had with media. Starting off as a small reptile park on the Sunshine Coast they used their passion for saving wildlife and a handful money to gradually expand their business acre by acre. To learn that a majority of it was completed by Steve himself makes the zoo all the more special. He put absolutely everything into it and as a result it is thriving in its purpose to bring people closer to wildlife and educate them. It was lovely to read about their promise that everything they earned through their documentaries and profits from the zoo would go straight back into their business and their conservation projects. A strategy that they still live by today; they take nothing for themselves, a quality that I’ve always admired about the Irwin family.
I was disappointed to discover that on more than one occasion, they had been attacked by the media about their profession. It just goes to show that no matter who you are or what good you do in the world, there will always be someone out there to try and tear you down; a whole army of paparazzi in their situation. It comes as one of the disadvantages of living in the lime light. From ‘breaching’ wildlife laws in Antarctica to being accused of being an ‘irresponsible parent’, the media had no problem in lashing out at Steve and Terri and forgetting about all of the good they were doing for wildlife conservation.
I’m so happy that I stumbled across ‘My Steve’; it was a terrific read and even now, a decade later I feel more connected to who Steve was as a person, and have better insight into just how passionate he was about wildlife conservation. It was also good to notice how far Terri, Bindi, Robert and Australia Zoo has come since Steve’s passing. They regularly pay tribute to their loving husband and father and have done a tremendous job at continuing Steve’s legacy to protect and conserve wildlife around the world, just as Terri promised.