13 October 2012
NICOLE FUGE talks to the Irwin family about their new wildlife show.
BINDI and Robert Irwin grew up in front of the camera, captivating the world with their resolve to continue their father’s quest.
Six years after Steve Irwin’s shocking death and Terri, Bindi and Robert have welcomed Australia into their new lives on their new show Steve Irwin Wildlife Warriors.
It is a behind-the-scenes look at Australia Zoo, the 24/7 wildlife hospital in Beerwah, rescue unit and conservation projects from Cape York to Tasmania.
"Steve would always say to me, I don’t care if anyone ever remembers me but after I’m gone I hope my message is still heard’," Terri said.
"I think that is so tremendously profound that you would not worry about anyone remembering you and second of all, wanting this to continue.
"It’s been my passion that although every day isn’t necessarily easy, it is important to continue this work and I see that with Bindi and Robert and the 400-strong team here at Australia."
Aside from their embryonic zest for wildlife and conservation, 14-year-old Bindi and eight-year-old Robert are forging their own path.
Bindi is branching out into acting in movies, while Robert is a budding artist with a knack for drawing his favourite animals, dinosaurs.
"Robert’s doing illustrations for a book series he’s got coming out next year," Terri said, brimming with motherly pride.
"Bindi loves to sing, so during the school holidays she’s with the jungle girls singing African songs and loving it, not Robert’s thing, so that’s fine.
"So rather than saying you should sing and dance like your sister, what’s your passion? It is interesting to see him taking off with these illustrations and that’s never been Bindi’s passion, it’s just letting them find their own path."
Bindi and Robert’s approach to wildlife also differs.
"It is interesting to watch the difference between boys and girls and then also that nurture versus nature," Terri said.
"It’s interesting how much Robert is like Steve even though he only had Steve for a couple of years.
"He’s very smart like Steve and I watch Bindi, she’s like her dad in that she’s very gentle and empathetic with things like wildlife and humanitarian situations but still very strong. So I see Steve in both of them.
"When we were filming with Steve Irwin’s Wildlife Warriors on our crocodile research trip it was interesting to watch what Bindi and Robert love to do.
"Robert is a hands-on guy, he wants to jump the croc and Bindi was interested in the science, so she’s the one helping the scientist by surgically implanting the device and taking down the data.
"It’s fun to sit back and watch them finding their own way."
Terri said the challenge was making sure Robert was given the same opportunities as Bindi had at his age.
"After losing Steve you do become infinitely more sensitive about the vulnerability of life and I never thought we would lose Steve the way it happened or when it happened," she said.
"He was so big and strong and impervious to everything and I look at Bindi and Robert and think they’re younger and smaller, I do worry."
With Robert forging a prospective career in the arts and Bindi already a star in her own right, Tern said it was really important to keep the kids grounded.
"It’s awesome being a kid, there’s no highfalutin contracts, if you stop loving it you can stop doing it," she said.
"Growing up in Beerwah is brilliant, you don’t have the pressures that a kid would have growing up in Hollywood.
"Steve had such opportunities that he turned down in the US to stay in Australia, he was really determined that we would live in Australia.
"It’s very grounding for the kids and how brilliant, they’re growing up in Australia Zoo, living in Beerwah it’s magical. We’re very lucky."
Outside the work being done on home turf, the Irwins want to continue protecting global wildlife.
"This show is hopefully going to carry on and we’re looking towards the future of that as well, but then also it’s looking at a more global presence," Terri said.
"While we’re first and foremost about conservation we’re also passionate about tourism.
"We would really like to be able to do more showcasing to countries that would have the opportunity of coming here to Australia."
Steve Irwin’s Wildlife Warriors airs on Saturdays, 7.30pm on Channel Ten.