Amanda French, a close family friend of Bob Irwin, has shed more details about the ongoing rift between Bob and his late son Steve Irwin‘s immediate family. It comes after Bindi Irwin claims she endured “psychological abuse” from her grandfather.
This all kicked off (very publicly) when someone asked Bindi why she didn’t include Bob in her Father’s Day honours on Sunday, which is when the other side of the world celebrates the day.
In a lengthy response in the Facebook comments on her post, Bindi claims that Bob has “shown no interest in spending time with me or my family”, including Bindi’s newborn daughter Grace Warrior Irwin Powell. She said Bob sends back gifts and has ignored her attempts to contact him.
“He has never said a single kind word to me personally,” she wrote. “It breaks my heart but it is not healthy to engage in an abusive relationship.”
Amanda, who also co-wrote Bob’s 2016 memoir The Last Crocodile Hunter, confirmed to Brisbane’s Stav, Abby and Matt that there has been bad blood in the family for some time now.
Amanda also used to work at Australia Zoo.
“There is a rift and has been for quite a few years since Bob actually resigned from Australia Zoo in 2008. Bob hasn’t seen the kids since that time,” Amanda told the radio station.
“It’s a surprise as to what was said and how Bindi came out saying what she said. There were some pretty weighty terms that were thrown around – psychological abuse and all of that sort of stuff. You’d have to have some pretty big evidence to back that. It’s a pretty big call to make,” she said.
Amanda wouldn’t share the exact source of the tension, but hinted it began after Bob left Australia Zoo. She said he will take “the real reasons” why he resigned to his grave.
“That’s just the kind of person he is, he’s maintained a very neutral position about it even when he published his autobiography – it was a very beautiful, neutral way of describing the reasons he left.
“And the reason he did that is because he knew there’d be consequences for Australia Zoo. He didn’t see eye-to-eye on certain issues to do with Australia Zoo at the time and some of the animals.”
Again, Amanda wouldn’t expand on what these specific issues were, but stressed that Bob wanted to deal with this privately.
Amanda also explained that Bob returned the gifts because they were “odd”.
“They were always from Terri Irwin, never from the kids,” she said, claiming Bindi’s mother once sent Bob a shower cap as a gift.
“To me, it’s a passive aggressive thing to do,” Amanda said.
She also claims Bindi never attempted to correspond with Bob.
Amanda explained that it has been difficult for Bob to reach out to Bindi’s family, repeating that he hasn’t returned to Australia Zoo since 2008. That means he hasn’t been able to visit Steve’s resting place.
“That’s hard for him, not being able to return to his son’s resting place, as you can understand. He hasn’t been back to Australia Zoo since the Australian Wildlife Hospital was launched back in 2008.”
Amanda said the building was supposed to be dedicated to Bob and his late wife Lyn, but that Bob’s invitation was retracted. Bob, however, still attended the event.
When asked about her working relationship with Terri, Amanda danced around the question. Instead, she said that a lot of people have left Australia Zoo with “the same feeling”.
It’s worth noting that this is not the first time Amanda has spoken in defence of Bob this week. The author commented on Bindi’s original Facebook post on Sunday, expressing her disappointment in Bindi’s words.
“He hasn’t seen you since you were 10,” Amanda replied to Bindi’s comment.
“He has done all he knows how to do and that is bury his head in the sand because that’s how he copes. He’s not someone who is out there reaching out and communicating, he’s like your Dad was. An introvert and not someone who can navigate people well.”
Amanda said that Bob loves Bindi and the family “more than you know.”
“This should be a private matter not written about on Facebook. I’m so disappointed to read this. It’s immature to write such words.”
Amanda especially took issue with Bindi’s claim that her family is supporting Bob financially.
“You have to remember that Bob gave them that zoo, he gave that to Terri and Steve when they were married. But it was always the agreement that he would be on a pension for the remainder of his days in return for that,” Amanda told the radio station.
At the end of Bindi’s original comment on Facebook, the conservationist said she has struggled with her relationship with Bob for her entire life.
“I have to choose to care for my own mental health now,” Bindi wrote.
On Tuesday, she announced she was taking a break from social media and her public commitments for a month to be with her daughter and family.