12 November 2012
It's been six years since Steve Irwin's untimely death, but for his widow Terri and their two children, Bindi and Robert, life without him will always be an uphill battle.
"You always wake up and think that he is going to walk through the door," Bindi tells Woman's Day.
Just eight when her dad was fatally pierced in the chest by a stingray barb, she says the family will always feel his loss. "You can't just say, 'That's it, I'm done grieving' - we will always love and miss him.
"I think when you lose someone so incredibly important, you kind of have two options," says Bindi, showing maturity beyond her 14 years. "You can either curl up in a dark corner and say, 'That's it! I'm done,' or you can pick yourself up, dust yourself off and say, 'I'm going to remember this person every single day of my life and I am going to make sure their legacy continues."
While the whole Irwin family is committed to carrying on Steve's work, Terri says the children are always her number-one priority.
"I am more focused on making sure the two people that were most important to Steve - Bindi and Robert - are doing well and are healthy and happy, and I am just enjoying the journey of them growing up right now. If I could take two things with me to a deserted island it would be Bindi and Robert - and maybe a cake!"
They're just like Dad
For Terri, the kids are a constant reminder of her late husband.
"Robert (8) is just a cookie-cutter image of Steve," Terri says. "I see him doing all the things Steve's mother said about Steve [when he was a child]. I'll turn around and he's in the top of a pine tree or with a huge lizard. I never know what he will get up to next. He's so much like him, it's incredibly endearing.
"Bindi's so strong on the outside, like her dad. I mean, if Bindi falls out of a tree she barely mentions it, but she's very soft on the inside.
"I remember when Steve filmed a documentary, Ghosts of War, following the journey of the United States and Australian military through the South Pacific during WWII, and he couldn't tell stories of things he'd seen or places he'd been without getting incredibly emotional... and I see that with Bindi. She has such empathy."
It seems like just yesterday that Bindi and Robert were running amok with their dad.
"Just before school, Dad would take us on his motorbike. Before we had our jumpers on and brushed our teeth, he would take us to get ice-cream," recalls Robert.
"We had ice-cream for breakfast!" chuckles Bindi. "Mum would be yelling out the door, 'But they haven't brushed their teeth!' Life was certainly never dull, and we had the best time."
The children cherish every memory they have of their adventurous dad.
"One day, we were sitting there doing schoolwork and all of a sudden, he darts through the door and says, 'Pack up your school work, we're leaving in 20 minutes to go and climb the Glass House Mountains!" says Bindi. "That is just how life was. I don't know how we got so lucky to have such a wonderful mum and wonderful dad - we are the luckiest kids on the planet."
A wonderful husband
Not only was Steve a great father, but for Terri he was - and always will be - her soul mate.
"What was so special about Steve was that he believed I could do things that not even I thought I could do," she says. "It was the most wonderful relationship with someone who genuinely treated me as an equal. Sometimes when we were catching venomous snakes, or jumping crocs in these incredibly remote areas, I would question whether we could achieve what we set out to do, and then I'd think, 'Well, Steve thinks I can do this, so I must be able to.' It was so inspiring... and it gave me a lot of confidence in myself that I never had before."
Steve's legacy lives on in their latest TV show, Steve Irwin's Wildlife Warriors. "It is really, really cool because it kind of takes the audience behind the scenes of Australia Zoo, our rescue unit and our Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital," says Robert.
So, what would Steve say if he could see them now?
"Crikey!" they laugh in unison.