Oct 9, 2006

Private Members Business – Steve Irwin

Private Members Business – Steve Irwin

9 October 2006

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (3.43 pm)—Yes, I am happy to second the motion. Steve Irwin’s death is an unfortunate loss. As Shadow Minister for Environment and Heritage, and on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I wish to express sincere condolences to Steve’s widow, Terri, their children, Bindi and Bob, and Steve’s father on the sudden and shocking loss of her husband, their father and his son.

Steve Irwin was indeed a passionate conservationist. He promoted an awareness that recognised the economic value in protecting wildlife and of nature conservation. He was a great advocate for ecotourism—a growing and vital industry for the promotion and preservation of our natural heritage. However, Steve’s greatest contribution was clearly in his role as an educator. The fact that, due to his personality, he could appeal to people who would not necessarily see themselves as conservationists in the first instance meant that he made a very real difference in broadening the appeal of conservation and in widening the number of people who understood that our place on this earth is for a short time and that we need to relate in harmony to all other species on this earth.

Steve continuously demonstrated the need to protect all animals, especially our most dangerous animals. He educated us about animal behaviour. He educated us about the need to protect their habitat and he educated us about the way they live and interact in those habitats. His legacy is the understanding that he fostered, particularly in young people, of valuing and respecting wildlife. Steve passionately believed in educating children from a very young age about wildlife behaviour. In his interview with Andrew Denton, he likened it to how Laurie Lawrence teaches kids to swim from when they are one day old; he said, ‘They’re sponges.’

Steve and Terri Irwin established Wildlife Warriors Worldwide in 2002. Some of the charity’s objectives include educating the public and raising awareness of wildlife issues, and researching and recommending action in the protection of threatened or endangered species. Through Wildlife Warriors, the Irwin family bought land in Australia, Fiji, Vanuatu and the United States in an attempt to preserve habitat for endangered animals. The Irwin family literally put their money where their mouth was when it came to conservation, and dug into their own pocket.

Steve Irwin will of course also be remembered for his incredible enthusiasm and energy. It was that drive and passion for conservation that convinced many other high-profile Australians to join him as ‘wildlife warriors’—people such as Jimmy Barnes and John Williamson. The Wildlife Warrior fund also assisted in establishing the Australian Wildlife Hospital and Rescue Unit near Australia Zoo which receives over 70 wildlife emergency phone calls every day, often dealing with over 30 different species. Other conservation projects undertaken by Wildlife Warriors in Australia include urban wildlife management projects. The team has most recently been working closely with the RSPCA and Brisbane City Council to relocate areas of koalas likely to be impacted by land clearing, and recommending strategies on overpopulations of species in congested areas.

In Asia, Wildlife Warriors are part of tiger conservation programs in Satpura National Park in Madhya Pradesh, India; Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia; and Manas National Park in Bhutan. Following the devastating Asian tsunami, Wildlife Warriors Worldwide visited areas of Aceh. The team delivered urgently required veterinary supplies for elephants working to recover bodies from the disaster area and provided humanitarian aid to forest guards affected by the disaster. In South Africa, with only 600 to 800 cheetahs remaining in the wild, Wildlife Warriors are working in partnership with De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre to track and relocate problem cheetahs away from local villages.

We can all recall pictures of Steve wrestling with crocodiles. His legacy lives on at Australia Zoo. The zoo first served to house ‘problem crocodiles’ that were for relocation through International Crocodile Rescue and has played a significant role in the thriving of the saltwater crocodile population, which was finally protected in 1974, after coming close to extinction.

My condolences to the Irwin family. There is no doubt that Steve’s legacy will live on.