Steve Irwin was known around the world as the “Crocodile Hunter.” People around the world watched the Australian explore the wild parts of the world and its deadliest animals.
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Irwin’s fans received a major shock on September 4, 2006, when news reports filed that Irwin had been killed in a freak accident with a stingray. Known and loved the world over, thousands attended his funeral service and millions watched from across the globe.
What Happened During Steve Irwin’s Memorial?
Unlike many celebrity funerals, Irwin’s funeral service was a private affair with only family in attendance. Irwin’s father decided he would have wanted a small family gathering and nothing more, though he could have had a state funeral. Though the funeral itself was intimate, thousands of people attended the memorial later on in person and millions watched online.
Location and date
Irwin’s memorial service, held on September 20, 2006, took place at the Australia Zoo, which Irwin and his wife ran. The memorial service was held in the most fitting place possible for the crocodile lover — his “Crocoseum.”
The Crocoseum was an area inside the park that Irwin loved the most. It was there that he put on his crocodile shows, feeding untethered crocs for awed crowds and fans. This was also the location where he filmed some of his TV shows for the wildly popular “Crocodile Hunter” show that aired around the world.
Five thousand people, including politicians, actors, and other important Australian society members, attended the memorial in person. Another three million people watched the service as it was live-streamed around the world. In Australia, the country nearly came to a halt as people watched on TV and listened in their cars. For Irwin’s native country, and for many around the world, his memorial service was iconic.
Order of service
Irwin’s memorial service was filled with both tear-provoking and laughter-inducing moments. It was a memorable mix of spoken tributes, video footage of Irwin doing what he loved most, live and streamed guest appearances, and surprise appearances by some of the animals that Irwin loved most.
Though much can be learned about Irwin’s life from the memorial service itself, reading one of the many accounts of his obituary will fill you in on more details of his life and legacy. As with all famous obituaries, variations were published around the world.
The Prime Minister of Australia, the Honorable John Howard, opened the memorial service with the following words, “My fellow Australians, we gather in this special place that Steve created to celebrate the life of a remarkable man and a remarkable Australian.” He noted how loved Irwin was by all in Australia and made mention of the fact that Steve was a good man who was “direct, genuine, and oh, so Australian.”
Friends and family members, politicians and actors, zoo staff, and members of his crew gave speeches.
Wes Mannion, Irwin’s best friend
Wes Mannion, Irwin’s best friend, or “mate,” gave a brief speech for Irwin’s memorial service, he recounted the very first time Irwin convinced him to feed a crocodile. After that first time feeding a crocodile, he caught Irwin’s vision for wildlife preservation and went on countless adventures with Irwin. Together the two traveled throughout Australia and around the world, exploring and finding some of the world’s wildest creatures.
Though Irwin was known for his role as Australia’s “Crocodile Hunter,” Wes stated that Irwin’s greatest achievement was as a dad. He said, “His love and dedication to his children have been inspiring.”
Bob Irwin, Irwin’s father
Irwin got his love for adventure and wildlife from his father, Bob. They were incredibly close while working at the zoo that Bob started and joining together for the preservation of endangered species. Bob gave a short but pointed speech to those in attendance, pointing out that not only would all of humanity miss his son, but the animals he gave his life to protect.
Bob’s words were emotional and poignant. “Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t grieve for Steve. He’s at peace now. But I’d like you to grieve for the animals. The animals have lost the best friend they ever had. And so have I.”
Bindi Irwin, Irwin’s daughter
Only eight years old at the time of her father’s death, Bindi was remarkably poised and calm during the memorial service. She made her family proud as they looked on from their seats in the stands and listened as she read her speech. When she took to the platform, she received a standing ovation. When she finished, she received another.
He set her on a course for a life following in her father’s footsteps of preserving the world’s endangered species.
“My daddy was my hero. He was always there for me when I needed him. I don’t want Daddy’s passion to ever end. I want to help endangered wildlife just like he did. I had the best daddy in the whole world and I will miss him every day. When I see a crocodile, I will always think of him.”
John Stainton, producer/director of ‘The Crocodile Hunter’
John Stainton was the producer/director of Irwin’s shows, including “The Crocodile Hunter.” He opened his speech by saying, “Today I want to share with you the way he changed my life forever.”
He went on to talk about how Irwin contributed to the TV shows they recorded by being in front of the camera and behind it as well. John clearly stated that Irwin was the reason why the shows grew in popularity and became what they did — “must-watch TV.”
Songs and poems
At Irwin’s funeral, people sang songs and read poetry. Each song or poem represented a specific facet of his life and all combined to describe the late naturalist through lyrics and music.
Dr. Eve Fesl, Gubbi Gubbi Tribe
A leader of one of Australia’s native tribes, Dr. Eve Fesl, read a poem in tribute to Irwin. The moving words visibly affected the audience, bringing many to tears. Her poem tribute read, “At dawn, the magpies sing and by day the black cockatoo wing their way across the sunny sky. The koala, possum, dingo, and carpet snake are silent on the land below. A mist covers the mountains. We and our land are crying for you.”
At the end of the poem, she led the entire audience in a farewell cry, led by a member of the Gubbi Gubbi tribe.
John Williamson, Australian singer/songwriter
John Williamson is a folk singer as well known to the Australians as George Strait or Dolly Parton is to Americans. During the memorial, he led the crowd in two songs called “Home Among the Gum Trees” and “True Blue.” Both songs speak about a love for Australia, best friendship, and adventures in the wild outback he and Irwin both call home.
Irwin loved every animal he ever met. You can watch video footage of him carrying koalas, wrestling crocks, and holding all sorts of animals from snakes to monkeys. As a special tribute, three of his favorite elephants were brought out during the memorial service. Siam, Sabu, and Bimbo all got a special feeding by Bob and Bindi Irwin in tribute to the way Irwin would feed the elephants at his park.
Many celebrities offered support to the Irwin family: Larry King, Kevin Costner, Kelly Ripa, Justin Timberlake, Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, and Cameron Diaz. Though not physically present, each celebrity sent video messages played as part of the memorial service.
Russell Crowe stated, “We’ve all lost a friend,” and Justin Timberlake said, “I’ll never forget what I learned just by being around Steve.” Cameron Diaz voiced the thoughts of many parents around the world when she said, “Every kid was in love with the idea of being him.”
The empty chair
They left a single chair vacant between Irwin’s wife and his father as a poignant representation of the vacancy Irwin’s absence left in the hearts and lives of friends, family, and adoring fans.
Where is Steve Irwin Buried?
His closest family decided the final resting place for Irwin, and, to this day, the exact site remains unknown to the world at large.
Along with the funeral, Irwin’s graveside service was a private family and close friends-only affair. No media or reporters were allowed to be part of the intimate gathering. Though surprising to many, Irwin’s wife planned it this way to abide by her late husband’s wishes.
Though many speculate that Irwin was laid to rest somewhere at the Australia Zoo, no family members or friends have disclosed the exact location of the gravesite.
If you’re planning to try and view the famous zookeeper’s final resting place, you might be disappointed to learn that, unlike some famous graves, Irwin’s grave is inaccessible. Outside of immediate family members and close friends, no one knows the location of his final resting place. There is a memorial set up at the Australia Zoo, but no grave is accessible.
A Man Known and Loved by All
Steve Irwin was a larger-than-life character who captivated the hearts and imaginations of children and adults around the world. Whether in life or in death, he will be remembered for his love of nature, the wild, and the great Australian Outback.
- Associated Press. “Private Funeral Held for Steve Irwin.” News, CBS News, 10 September 2006. cbsnews.com/news/private-funeral-held-for-steve-irwin/
- Associated Press. “Steve Irwin.” Obituaries, The Oklahoman, 7 September 2006. obits.oklahoman.com/obituaries/oklahoman/obituary.aspx?n=steve-irwin&pid=19127166
- Associated Press. “Thousands Show for Steve Irwin’s Memorial Service in Australia.” Story, Fox News, 20 September 2006. foxnews.com/story/thousands-show-for-steve-irwins-memorial-service-in-australia
- Maynard, Roger. “Australia Stands Still for Steve Irwin’s Memorial.” World News, The Guardian, 21 September 2006. theguardian.com/world/2006/sep/21/australia.mainsection
- “Steve Irwin Memorial Service.” YouTube, 25 September 2007. youtube.com/watch?v=E_lobqdd0Uw
- Talbot, Louise. “Family, Stars Pay Tribute to Steve Irwin.” Celebrity, People, 20 September 2006. people.com/celebrity/family-stars-pay-tribute-to-steve-irwin/
- “Irwin Burial Details Stay Secret.” News Story, News Australia, 17 March 2009. news.com.au/national/irwin-burial-details-stay-secret/news-story/8e0927618910d5798348aebb1e1fd955?sv=2f3c5e4309d9ad34d8082c928fd011e8