Strong sense of Steve’s presence
YOU know the Irwins have arrived for your interview long before you see them.
There is a frenetic hustle among the tourists at the zoo.
All eyes turn away from trying to get a glimpse of the new baby giraffe in search of the zoo's real stars: Terri, Bindi and Robert.
The celebrity trio always appears gracious and at ease with the crowds vying for a photograph, an autograph, or just a glimpse of the Sunshine Coast's, and possibly Australia's, most famous family.
Terri says "hello" to everyone enthusiastically. She meets your eyes and even though she has been interviewed by hundreds of people across the world, she seems genuinely interested.
It's not long before Bindi launches on to one of her favourite topics.
She talks quickly and is animated.
It's hard to believe she is a 15-year-old teenager.
Robert, when he can get a word in, is the same. His eyes light up as he talks about one of the zoo's new animals, or the plans for the Madagascar enclosure with its lemurs and, possibly one day, his favourite creature: chameleons.
Sometimes you feel as if their conversation is carefully scripted.
It is so polished and enthusiastic.
Everything the Irwins say gets a message across, whether it is about conservation, the zoo's projects or how to deal with grief.
The children obviously have inherited Steve's unquenchable enthusiasm for anything that moves.
You can almost imagine Steve smiling down from heaven and saying, "Crikey, they're amazing."
While there is no doubt life has been tough since they lost their father in 2006, both children are quick to talk about the positives and their love for each other.
They're smart, too. Robert, who turned 10 on November 1, is already in Year 6, two years ahead of his peers. Bindi, who should be in Year 10, is already studying a TAFE course in business and tourism.
The Irwins were giving media interviews ahead of Steve Irwin Day yesterday.
It's hard to believe it's been more than seven years since Steve died in Far North Queensland after being pierced by a stingray barb on September 4.
For this interview, the Irwins proudly show off the zoo's newest additions, Sky, the six-week-old baby giraffe and the two, as yet unnamed, 13-week-old tiger cubs.
Terri whips out her iPhone and shows the video of Sky being born while Bindi recounts how she was called out of a maths test to watch the moment.
Bindi also quickly launches into
their plans for next year, including opening "Australia and possibly the world's first-ever zebra experience" and how two more giraffes are expecting babies.
Robert explains how, in the African savannah, zebras "look like hamburgers" to lions and are very scared animals.
This is why the zebra encounters are so special. Getting close to these "horses in pyjamas" is a rare treat the zoo has worked hard to develop.
"We've been working at this for two years," Terri says.
"I don't know any other zebra which would allow it."
The young Irwins have a quirky sense of humour, whether it's talking about how they have the only mum who "jumps on crocodiles" or how Robert often steals carrot sticks meant for the animals.
They're also quick to laugh at each other and in the 90 minutes I spend with them, I never hear them say a bad word about anybody, even when coaxed.
Some might think being home- schooled and not being able to go shopping at the Plaza without being ambushed by fans would be tough ... kind of like living in a cage of their own. But it seems the Irwins love their lifestyle.
"This is my life. What's normal?" Bindi asks.
"I live in a zoo and when I finish school, I get to hug a giraffe. There are different types of normal."
Robert also says he is not missing out by not having crowds of friends around him at school, as wherever he goes around the world he makes "new friends".
"Also, a lot of the staff at the zoo have children," he says.
And, they have each other.
Terri explains how, while most children spend all day at school, Robert and Bindi get their schoolwork done in three hours.
And at the end of the day, they come together as a family and discuss the highlights.
"I love nothing more than spending time with Mum and Robert," Bindi says.
"We're always together, sharing things as a family."
Instead of being another sad reminder that their father is no longer with them, Steve Irwin Day seems to be one the family enthusiastically looks forward to.
"It's a special time," Terri explains.
With a star line-up this year including Rove McManus, the Veronicas and the Gold Coast Titans, it is a fun day the Irwins really enjoy.
"It's about celebrating his life instead of staying sad," Bindi explains.
"Grief is one thing and being sad is part of it. You never forget the person, but you have to carry on to remember his legacy."
And Terri also seems content in her life as a single mother.
She dispelled rumours she was dating someone else.
She says sometimes it only feels like "a minute ago" since Steve's death, and other times "an eternity has gone by".
"Living without Steve has been challenging," she admits.
"I miss him every day and am very lonely for him."
She acknowledges people take different "grief journeys".
"I found my Prince Charming, I got my happy ending, and with everything that happened, I would do it all over again," she says.
"Others find love again, and that's fabulous for them. There is no right or wrong way.
"I'm not looking for anyone else. I get joy out of life."
Terri jokes how, over the years, she has been linked with a variety of people including "staff and friends" but understands "people are just interested".
"We are all doing the best we can," she says.
"Some people think, 'Oh, she will never be happy unless she has found love again'.
"I'm lonely for Steve, but I am happy. I have beautiful children."
Her children "inspire" her and she sees her husband "living through them".
Terri says losing Steve meant they "helped each other more".
"You realise how special life is," she says.