Excerpt: ‘Australian Story’, by Allee Richards


Image by Sheep"R"Us. Reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

I am a Wildlife Warrior. I love all animals, especially crocs and snakes. I live with many crocs and snakes at the Zoo where I also live with my Mom and my younger brother. I’ve lived at the Zoo my whole life. My parents met here back when my Dad owned it with his Dad. Back then, they had just two staff and four acres. Today our Zoo is seventy acres and has over five hundred staff, crikey! Here’s a photo of my family at the Zoo in 1999—that’s my Mom and Dad, and that’s me in the khaki onesie. I no longer exclusively wear khakis like I did back then, although they will always have a place in my heart.

I wear khakis because I am a Wildlife Warrior. I care about the planet. I believe over-population is the biggest problem facing the world today. Mother Earth invited 1.5 billion people to this party, but seven billion have arrived, and we don’t have enough food or party bags for everyone. But because we do have some food and party bags, some people are having an awesome time and they’re jumping on the dance floor and calling their friends saying what a great party it is, and all the while other people are being trampled. And although some people are thinking that it probably needs to stop, it’s all happening so fast! There’s no way of stopping the momentum that is growing and turning this party into something unrecognisable to anybody, even the people enjoying it.

My Dad was a Wildlife Warrior too. My brother and I were both born on his TV show. He wrestled crocs and said “Crikey!” He was a big star, my Dad, but deep down he was just a croc-wrestler like any other Aussie bloke. After he’d been to visit his fans in America, he’d get off the plane and head straight to the bush. Once he’d rolled his swag out and slept under the Southern Cross he felt all Aussie again. It’s hard sometimes, being a star, that’s what Dad told Rove McManus.

Australia was devastated in 2006 when my Dad died at sea. My family felt destroyed after Dad died. All of Australia did too. You can watch his funeral on YouTube! My Mom says it’s important to honour our grief, that’s why we talk about Dad on TV. Mom told Ray Martin how fun Dad was. I told Ellen DeGeneres how all I want is to make him proud. We always make sure to tell the cameras how grateful we are too. We hold each other tight and smile. Mom and I are especially happy we have my younger brother because, although he doesn’t remember Dad, he is exactly like him. My Mom tells the cameras, “He is his Dad.” I told Tracy Grimshaw that he’s like a “Mini-Daddy.”

Before Dad died I appeared on his TV show several times. There’s footage of me in the bush in Queensland and of me being pushed in my pram around the Zoo (open 9–5 weekdays!). My birthday parties were featured on Dad’s TV show too. For the first few years of my life these parties were just like other kid’s parties with supermarket cake, friends, and fairy costumes. Eventually they grew to be huge annual events at the Zoo and all the kids in Queensland were invited.

When my Dad died we’d already started filming my own TV series, Jungle Girl, which was lucky because there were gaps in programming that needed to be filled. That’s why I also made a fitness video for kids and my favourite program, My Daddy the Crocodile Hunter, where I took the audience on a special journey through the years with my Dad. They show mostly featured footage of me on my Dad’s TV show. Sometimes Mom was in an episode. The show had a theme song:

Catching snakes, jumping on crocs, swinging with the monkeys in the high treetops. Chasing lizards across the rocks, what a time we had, me and Dad! Sometimes shooting for the silver screen, sometimes jumping on the trampoline. A worldwide hero, but don’t you see, he was just plain Dad to me!

This piece appears in full in The Lifted Brow #32. Get your copy here, or read it in digital form here.

Allee Richards is a playwright and short fiction writer from Melbourne. Her fiction has been published in Voiceworks and Scum Mag. Her plays have been performed in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide. She is currently a playwright in residence with Lonely Company.