6 October 2012
The Irwin children have inherited their famous dad's passion for wildlife and mum Terri says they're following the Crocodile Hunter's legacy in their own ways, writes Geoff Shearer.
BEDECKED in khaki - Bindi with a python around her neck, Robert clinging to the ridges on a crocodile's back - there never seemed any doubt the Irwin children would follow in their late father Steve's footsteps.
But has mum Terri ever thought about what she would do if one or both of them turned to her one day and said: "You know what? I think I want to be a hairdresser or a train driver?"
The 48-year-old gives a knowing little chuckle at the question. Sure, she has wondered (constantly, one imagines) how her children would grow; how they would run with their father's legacy; how their personalities would develop and change.
Seeing her 14-year-old and eight-year-old now as they plunge into life at Australia Zoo, bursting into life in front of cameras for their latest TV series Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors, Terri says she seriously doubts her children would want it any other way.
"It's a funny one, because you do just want to support your kids in what they love," she says.
"And I find that Bindi and Robert are both finding their niche in what they each enjoy most about what our lives are.
"(You watch) some of the original footage of Bindi and Robert with Steve and you see them just wanting to emulate him. So having those first formative years with Steve really set the passage for Bindi and Robert.
"You watch them today - with the crocodiles, Robert is in there getting them out of traps; wanting to jump on them; helping people get ropes on and off.
"And Bindi is really interested in the science - she's the one helping implant the tracking device, or taking down the data, or reminding people to get that measurement.
"I don't think they will escape this as their destiny but I think they will each have a little of their own path."
Watching how much Robert, with his blonde bob-cut and cheeky attitude, resembles his dad gives Terri nothing but delight. "It's almost eerie with Robert because he looks and acts so much like Steve," she says.
"The mannerisms are just so beautifully similar."
As well as scenes shot at the Sunshine Coast zoo, the series will also follow the Irwins as they visit wildlife sanctuaries in Weipa, Cape York, far north Queensland and Tasmania.
Terri describes the new series as a "sweet opportunity". "We got to show how Steve's legacy is carrying on," she says.
It also presents a chance to meet the staff who help the Irwins run the zoo's Wildlife Hospital and Rescue Unit at Beerwah and see how the centres work.
"With the hospital and rescue unit, you literally don't know where the show's going to take you," Terri says. "So it's not something where you sit down and you storyboard and go, 'OK, here's the story we want to tell'. It's like whatever's happening right then!
"It makes it a really fun job then of going back in the archives and finding out if there are things you can link back to what Steve was doing.
"Some of our staff were actually trained by Steve and so they have that distinct advantage - and, again, there's that flashback. There they were with Steve and here they are now."
One of the main criteria for gaining employment with the Irwins is the right attitude and personality. While a degree is essential for some positions such as veterinarian work, in most roles it generally is not the deciding factor.
"One of the main things we look for...is that if you are an enthusiastic person who loves wildlife and wants to make a difference in the world, you've got what it takes," Terri says.
"That is the single trait I look for most, is what your personality's like. And then, what you are willing to learn.
"Steve was such a believer in that as well and he was someone who could really bring out the best in people. We have staff who came as a teenage volunteer and are now in charge of elephants; we have people who came and were bricklayers, and now they are managing an 85,000-acre (34,000ha) conservation property...it's wonderful."
Oh, and it helps if you can do impersonations. Robert has set a trend with his now famous Sir David Attenborough impersonations.
"Oh yes, he's really doing well with that," Terri says with a laugh.
"The fact that filming is just kind of second nature to our family and it's what we do for fun, it makes doing the series so easy.
"For example, Robert's just fed the boa constrictors himself for the first time and capturing these moments on film is so special.
"I'm really proud of this show."
Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors, Ten, Saturday 7.30pm