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The death of Dr Bill Standish is a great loss to Simbu

Bill Standish
Bill Standish


KUNDIAWA - I have been emailed by my friends at the Australian National University that the academic, Dr Bill Standish, died in bed two days ago.

He was a great friend of Simbu and Papua New Guinea and this is a great loss to me and many good people in Simbu who knew him closely.

He had been involved in Simbu for nearly 50 years and we are putting up a hauskrai at my home or at the Riverside Motel in Kundiawa.

Bill had written so much on the Simbu, particularly on its elections and politics, since 1972.

He assisted me with chapters 7 and 8 of ‘My Chimbu’, the history which was published last year.

At that time, in the middle of 2018, he told me this could be his last project for Simbu and he said he was happy to do it for me. He did most of the work in bed.

I am really heart broken. A lot of his friends in Simbu are broken too. I saw two with mud on their faces.

He has kids here named after him and he was a true friend, my Gibraltar. I wish I could attend his funeral but that is not to be. I guess the hauskrai will do.

It is such a loss of friendship and a great wealth of knowledge. The only solace will be his writings.


The news of Bill’s death brought tributes on Twitter from PNG Attitude readers.

Dr Anna Powles - I’m so very sorry to hear this. Bill was such a kind person and a huge support to me when I started my research on PNG in the 1990s, generously opening his home and sharing his knowledge. He was brave too. He single-handedly prevented the rape of several school girls in PNG.

Fiona Hukula - I am very sad to hear of Bill's passing. He always made time to catch up with me if he knew I was in Canberra. Sori tru. I always loved chatting with Bill. Lovely man and always willing to share.

Dr Tess Newton Cain -  That is sad news to hear, such a lovely man and so supportive of others' work.

John Conroy - Sorry to learn of the death of Bill Standish, who devoted a lifetime to the study of PNG politics, with particular reference to Simbu/Chimbu province. A man always ready to give time to others and to share his vast knowledge of the country, which he greatly loved.

Ashlee Betteridge - Sad news, always a supporter of our [development policy ]centre's work.

Gordon Peake - This is so sad. He was an utter gentleman, so giving of his time and knowledge, and with an unquenchable love for PNG. May he rest in peace.

Stephen Kirchner -A great contributor to the work of the Parliamentary Library, helping members and staff understand PNG and the South Pacific.

Peter Brent - I got to know him only recently, a couple of years ago. He was very helpful with some work I was doing. Very nice man.

Elizabeth Cox - Bill was special among researchers. Will be sadly missed by his many friends who work at grassroots level.


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Peter Moylan

I studied with Bill Standish at Monash and would meet up with him in Canberra in the 1960s. He was always generous with his time,

Philip Kai Morre

My heart broke when I heard of Dr Bill Standish's death in the midst of a political crisis.

I have known anthropologists who lived and worked in Simbu for a long time and assisted them in their research work but Bill Standish was a political scientist who analysed the past, the present and determined what the future would be like.

His insights and vision creates avenues for political reform especially creating an ideal democratic governance with gender inclusive and transparency. He was an extrovert with an outgoing personality who had concern for every person despite creed, colour, status and nationality.

The people of Simbu, especially students, will miss him. Dr Bill Standish lived amongst us as a Simbu for many years and many kids are named after him. May God grant Dr Bill Standish eternal happiness and peace.

Nic Notarpietro

I was saddened to hear of Bill’s death. I had the privilege to work with Bill and his colleague Joe Ketan as part of a review of then AusAID’s support to the 2002 elections, then subsequently when Bill was an adviser on the program.

Bill was a PNG political scientist with deep grassroots knowledge and networks and of unfailing - and unfailing - accuracy, honesty and integrity. He was also one of nature’s gentlemen, with a deep and abiding affection and commitment to the people of PNG.

I am sure from the comments above that the support and encouragement he gave to PNG students, academics and other colleagues over the years will be repaid in spades by the many capable and committed Papua New Guineans who will carry on his legacy.

Mathias Kin

Our hauskrai at the Riverside Hotel in memory of angra Dr Bill Standish yesterday was very well attended by all friends of the great man in Simbu and also from nearby Eastern Highlands.

It was really a gathering of the like minded (Bill's) to celebrate the life of the great man. Everybody who attended had something to say about their time with Bill and emotions flowed freely. His family from Mintima also came.

I will write a separate story on our angra's hauskrai for PNG Attitude today.


It is a great shock to learn of the death of Bill Standish, whom I have known since we were undergraduates at Monash in the mid 1960s.

Always known as a principled person and going beyond the usual call of duty it was excellent that he got so involved in PNG and became a boon to that country.

I used to see him at the ANU when we were both doing our PhDs but sadly, apart from once meeting him at a AAPS Conference didn't see much of him at all in the last two decades, which is now a matter of immense regret.

He will be so sorely missed around ANU Pacific circles and beyond.

Lynne Duckham (Vassallo)

I am so sad to hear of Bill's passing. He will be so greatly missed in so many ways.

His passion for and insight into PNG and in particular Simbu, and ability to readily give of his time and advice, has inspired me and many others over many decades.

Thinking of his family and friends at this time....

Andrew Chin

I was shocked to receive the sad news of Bill from Jane, Sue’s daughter.

Bill was a colleague and a friend and I have known him for about 40 years. He was a kind and gentle person and was passionate about PNG politics for most of his life.

Bill and I were housemates for several years in Narrabundah and that’s where I came to appreciate his deep knowledge of PNG.

His house was filled with beautiful artifacts from PNG. I still use the bilums he brought back for me.

I will miss the many conversations of his deep insights of PNG politics, and not forgetting his lovely homemade grapefruit marmalade!

Sarah Maima Garap

My Life’s Journey with late Dr. Bill Standish
A journey describes life in this broken world.
My journey with Angra – brother –Bill Standish is a story of more than 20 years beginning 1994. It’s a subject of a blog article – a tribute to him - I will write when my head is cleared from the shock of his passing.
For now, it’s this journey to ANU, March 01, 2019.
I have always stayed with Bill and Sue in all my trips to ANU – 1997, 2003, May 2018, and 2019.
He picked me up at the airport; I arrived at 10:00 p.m.
He gave me his old Voda phone; so I did not have to buy a new one.
He took me to ANU DPA for my placement; to see admin; and meet people.
He took me to the student accommodation; helped me with my bags. I was to move after three nights’ accommodation to another location. He remembered. After IWD meeting finished at nearly 5:00 p.m. he pulled me aside and said, “We have to go now. Office may close, you have to get to your new accommodation”. Yes, sure enough. We met the person looking after accommodation arrangements locking the door, and trying to get into his car.
After I checked in, we went shopping.
Sue had come back from her India trip on 8th March. After she settled in, I was invited over for dinner; it was a Barbie dinner which Bill cooked.
Bill checked on me frequently to make sure I was OK.
He knows the story of my work with women’s groups; my 2002 election story as a candidate; he knows my family; the story of my challenging life from grassroots to academia. He helped me write some of the stories.
He saw me on Saturday morning, 30th March, 8:30 a.m. to give me a book. He came announced. Now, that I recall, it seemed as though he actually came to say good-bye. I did say, “Hey bro, morning”. And hugged him as I always did to him and Sue every time we met.
I went to Sydney on Sunday 31st March, 6:00 am. Around that time he was rushed to hospital by Sue/Jane, Sue’s daughter. Around midday, he passed away.
Upon return to Canberra, I called him at 2:00 p.m. at Belconnen public bus station. Jane, Sue’s daughter answered the phone and gave me the bad news.
What??!! No! No! I broke down and cried. I have since been crying to grieve my loss…a loss to Simbu, and PNG.
The good I take away Angra Bill:
- We spent time together. That was quality time.
- You touch so many people’s lives – students, academics, ordinary people, friends, and family.
- Condolences, and tributes are coming in plentiful. Everyone is shocked. But only God gives life; and He takes back what he gave.
- Thanks for being a blessing to all of us who associated with you in one way or another. Your kind, and good deeds will be remembered until death.

Patience; Kindness; Goodness; Humility; Consideration; Love; care; Galatians 5: Fruits of the Holy Spirit is transmitted in your life. Everyone says so. So, God will be fair on you.

Farewell my brother, supporter, and my Australian family; you and Sue. I know you will want me to maintain contact with Sue. I definitely will.

Yal Wagai One raw a – Ena parawa - Wakai we! Laikim yu tru! Rest in Eternal Peace!

Terence Wood

Dear Mathias,
I'm so sorry to read this. Bill was kind and helpful. He was always willing to have a friendly chat even when we disagreed on Melanesian politics. He was generous with his time and his knowledge.

I'll miss him both as a scholar and a friend.


Dr June R Verrier

I met Bill at Monash in 1970 when he encouraged, and then facilitated, my first field trip to PNG.

He shared his ANU house on campus with me and took me up to Kundiawa, in Chimbu, on later, longer visits to introduce me to that astonishing country beyond Moresby in those very interesting times between self-government and independence.

He was at home there in so many ways. Over the years he came to grieve for what had become of a country with so much potential.

Gentle, thoughtful, too much so to get the credit he deserved. Vale Bill.

Ben Tomba

William is someone who you can easily associate with. I can vividly recall him back in 2003 and 2004 when I assisted him and Dr Ketan to do an electoral governance project on limited preferential voting in Anglimp South Wahgi, in Jiwaka and again in Port Moresby.

He was such a humble and easygoing person who could associate and get around with any group of people.

One time I accompanied him to Morata 1 to visit one of his Simbu friends (an old man) whose son was very sick and needed some money to take him to the hospital.

Bill gave the old Simbu man some money and how I saw Bill share his sympathy with the old man and his son was something I rarely see from a white man. I couldn't believe it and was really eye opening to see a white fellow fitting well with someone from the settlements.

Another time, I was with Bill at Airways for a dinner and debriefing on a project I was assisting him with. Bill shared with me his encounter with a traffic officer who caught him driving through the red lights at Highlander Hotel and Boroko Motors traffic lights.

He was waiting for his turn at the Boroko Motors traffic lights to turn right through to Wardstrip and onwards to Airways. While there, the green light for going up to Gerehu came on and the indicator for his direction of travel was still red but he drove through and almost collided with another oncoming car from Gerehu to Boroko.

He went on to say that a traffic officer arrested him and asked for his PNG driving license and he gave him the license.

The traffic officer then asked him if this is his first time to drive in PNG and he (Bill) told the traffic officer "Yes" and the traffic officer said, it's your first time to drive in PNG so I will let you go.

Bill further told me that what the officer failed to ask him was that if this is his first time to drive a car in PNG then how did he get the PNG driving license?

Mathias Kin

There will be plenty of kaukau, especially those roasted on hot charcoal, some village baked scones and surely plenty of avocado fruit, for these are the delicacies Bill enjoyed here in Simbu.

Our Simbu Bill Standish hauskrai is on Saturday at the Riverside Hotel at Warasimbu. Bill's family in Simbu from Mindima will be coming and those friends in Kundiawa or in the vicinity can attend this three hour program.

The program will start at 9 am and end at 12 noon. Those who can read here, please pass the word to others not on this blog.

Em bai gutpla tru sapos wanwan kisim hap kaukau na banana nambaut na kam. Lukim yupla.

Dr Alphonse Gelu

I am terribly sad about the passing of Dr Bill Standish. He is an outstanding political scientist and a great friend.

We did a study together back in 2003 with Dr Orovu Sepoe on the use of the limited preferential voting in a by-election at Abau.

We had many great experiences sleeping in villages and crossing flooded rivers. He will be surely missed by many of us.

Richard Jones

Like the hard copy writers, along with the Twitterati, I too am saddened to hear of Bill's death.

He was quite a character at UPNG back in the day.

At my undergraduate History of Ideas lectures Bill would be dressed in what he considered 'ideal kiap' gear.

An un-ironed, wrinkled khaki shirt, with epaulettes of course, khaki shorts and socks and very durable boots.
Unpolished and with poorly fastened laces.

A few of us got the message that he had a sardonic view of our Patrol Officer, ADO and District Commissioner mates.

Vale Bill. Sadly missed.

Stephanie Lawson

I'm so sorry to hear this news. Bill was a gracious, gentle, and thoughtful soul who helped numerous people and contributed greatly to Pacific scholarship.

Teddy Winn

A great political scientist whose work has established some of PNG's finest. He'll be surely missed.

Kathy Creely

Bill graciously granted permission for the University of California Library to scan his dissertation and make it available online.

Jo Chandler

I came across Bill's work about 12 years ago when I was planning my first reporting field trip to PNG.

In all the years since, he has been an advisor, sounding board, fact checker, and always reliable for a pithy quote to give context and insight into often deeply complex issues.

Whenever he came across interesting morsels, he would push them my way. When I wanted someone to read my work and give me an honest appraisal of hits and misses, he always found time, even against tight deadlines.

Most importantly he has facilitated introductions to many PNG scholars and actors over the years. A lovely, compassionate man with a deep connection to his PNG friends. I will miss him.

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