Lisa Curry: Steve Irwin dropped as Australian of the Year

New details have emerged about the legendary Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and the “shemozzle that should never have happened”.

World-renowned wildlife expert Steve Irwin was named Australian of the Year – but that decision was overturned at the last moment and the honor went to cricket star Steve Waugh.

The stunning revelation is in a memoir by former Olympian Lisa Curry, who was chairman of the Australian National Day Council at the time in 2004.

The sudden switch came amid media and public outcry after Mr Irwin’s much-loved “Crocodile Hunter” was photographed holding his then infant son, Robert, while feeding crocodiles at the Irwin family’s Australian Zoo.

The board, which awards Australia’s most prestigious award and which has informed Irwin he will be the recipient, is making calls to change tack in the belief that he can run again in a few years’ time.

But tragedy came before it could happen, when Irwin was stung to death in 2006.

In an exclusive interview with the Saturday Telegraph and other News Corp newspapers, Curry said he would make a different decision today — and if possible, he would post the award to Irwin.

“It was a mess that should never have happened,” he said. “Today, I would just say ‘no, we will continue’.

“Sometimes you do things to please people, to please the media or the public, and these days I would say ‘No. This is what we do. That guy deserves it and it will last.”

In her memoir Lisa: 60 Years of Love, Life & Loss, Ms Curry opens up about her life as three Olympic athletes and as a Commonwealth Games champion, making her Olympic comeback as a 30-year-old mother, and her marriage to, and divorce from, ironman Grant Kenny.

He also spoke about the death of his daughter Jaimi at the age of 33 after years of mental illness, including an eating disorder and alcohol abuse, and how he struggled to find his way out of the dark cloud of grief that fell upon him when his daughter died.

And he has detailed several never-before-seen stories about his life and career, including the Steve Iriwn crisis that erupted in January 2004, in the midst of his eight-year tenure as chairman of the Australian National Day Council – a role he was appointed to. by then Prime Minister John Howard.

“Steve knows he won because, at the time, it was my job to call the recipient and let them know,” he wrote, describing Irwin’s commitment to conservation and charismatic expertise in shining terms.

“It’s very difficult to make a decision to take someone’s award, which they won fairly and honestly.

“After speaking with Steve, it was agreed that he would withdraw his candidacy. He could run for another year. Steve Waugh ended up winning it that year and he was a very good Australian of the Year for 2004. I don’t know if he knew Steve Irwin was first choice.”

Irwin’s widow, Terri, and their now adult children, Bindi and Robert, continue to run the family zoo.

“I want his family to know that he is, and always will be, a well-deserved recipient of the award,” Curry wrote.

Read the full story on the Saturday Telegraph.

Lisa: A memoir – 60 years of life, love & loss by Lisa Curry with Ellen Whinnett will be published by HarperCollins on May 2, 2022 and is available for pre-order from Booktopia now.

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