Grab pretty much anyone in the world – from a Bombay bazaar stallholder to a French cafe waiter to an American ranch hand – and ask them to name a quintessential non-fictional Australian. It’s a safe bet the first name that comes to mind is that of the late, great Steve Irwin.
Born in Essendon in 1962, Irwin’s family were interested in wildlife and moved to Queensland when he was young to found what is now Australia Zoo. He grew up around animals, in particular reptiles, and was wrangling crocodiles from the age of nine as well as helping out at the zoo.
As an adult, Steve’s show The Crocodile Hunter made him an international celebrity and ambassador for Australian wildlife, with his passion, charm and love for the wild being shared with millions of people around the world.
Tragically, Steve was killed by a stingray on September 4, 2006 while filming for his latest documentary. His death sent shockwaves through the wildlife community and Australian society as a whole.
His wife Terri and children Bindi and Robert have continued his legacy and even today, more than a decade later, Australia Zoo still markets itself as ‘The home of the Crocodile Hunter’ and features Steve Irwin prominently on advertising material for the zoo – which has remained one of Queensland’s most popular tourist attractions.