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Nancy Sullivan, friend of Papua New Guinea, dies in US car smash

Nancy Sullivan - committed herseld to PNGKEITH JACKSON

THE noted anthropologist and philanthropist, Dr Nancy Sullivan, 57, has been killed in a one-car crash on the Taconic State Parkway in Connecticut in the United States.

Three children aged 5, 8 and 10 from Papua New Guinea were injured in the accident, two of them critically.

A fifth person in the vehicle, Skudy Bangan, 43, also a Papua New Guinean, was taken to MidHudson Regional Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Local police reported that the car being driven by Ms Sullivan left the road and struck an embankment at about 9:50 pm on Thursday. Ms Sullivan was declared dead at the scene and the children were airlifted to Westchester Medical Centre.

Nancy Sullivan ran her Madang-based anthropology consulting company and had lived in PNG for 23 years. The company employs several former students from the PNG Studies Department of Divine Word University.

But Ms Sullivan was better known for her feisty and fearless approach to dealing with issues inflicting the people of PNG, often to the ire of the government and companies that she saw as not behaving in the people’s interests.

I wrote this piece in 2011 and it provides a graphic example of what she sometimes had to endure.

Her personal blog, Nineteen years and counting in Papua New Guinea, tracked her life and challenges as she gamely served a people she loved and a country that she came to call her own.

“A brave, brave woman,” wrote friend and colleague, journalist Scott Waide. “Nancy Sullivan is not with us anymore. The tragedy hits us all very deeply. Nancy was loved by all those who knew about the values she stood for.

“She was a formidable voice against the exploitation of Papua New Guineans by large scale industries and foreign governments. She was unafraid, unapologetic and a loyal friend to many,” he said.

“She produced some of PNG's earliest music video clips and stood for the preservation of cultures in particular the Sepik and Madang provinces. She stood up against the exploitation of PNG women and against the prostitution that occurred as a result of the displacement of people on traditional lands.

“She didn't have much in terms of material wealth but collected children from everywhere and cared for them. I do hope that we who belong to this land will stand up as you have done for us. Nancy Sullivan your heart is painted red, black and gold.”


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Lynnette and Dan Silver

We had the very fortunate pleasure of being led on a PNG tour by Nancy several years ago and we have just now learned of her tragic death along with the children in 2015. We so enjoyed the incredible knowledge and often humorous stories she shared with our group. We are shocked and so saddened to hear of this. We will never forget her. Bless you, Nancy, and May your soul Rest In Peace.

Patricia Silva

Feel so sorry for your loss. No es posible. Great memories with you in PNG with the Silver Discovery.

Chris Cutler

She was a unique creature on the planet, a gift to PNG especially and to all of us who knew her. For Nancy, there were no dividing lines between compassion, humanity, bravery, brilliance and whackiness. What a stunning individual she truly was.

Maria Huaniangre | Ex student and associate

Mama Nancy, I am lost for words. Cannot stop my tears from falling. You have moulded me to be somebody through research as an ex student of PNG Studies.

As an associate in your Anthropology for Development based in Madang, I learnt a lot. Words cannot express Mama mi krai long you, God bai Blessim you long olgeta wok you mekim long kantri PNG.

Mathias Kin

Mipla olgeta tok bikpla sore tru. RIP

Lapieh Landu

Still in shock. God bless her soul. Such a wonderful mentor.

Beth Nowik

The accident was in New York, in Dutchess County. I heard the accident on the police scanner and my heart went out to all involved when I listened to it. Such a terrible tragedy.

Tiko Waundu | Curator of Anthropology, PNG National Museum & Art Gallery

I am truly in a shocked state now. Nancy was my best ever since I first joined the PNG National Museum as an anthropologist in 2009.

I worked with her for the protection of Karawari Cave Art for the last five years since 2009 until last year. I am so sorry.

The Karawari project is still underway for protection. Now it's our struggle which means PNG government effort to continue this project.

hank you Nancy for your powerful support to the government and people of Papua New Guinea for your entire life. Wish you all the best and rest in peace.

Kia-Henry Nema

She loved and believed in her students and knew that PNGns will tell their own stories better if given the right skills.

Her lectures for our final year university paper were always at her house over dinner and she kept track of all her students until she passed.

She loved us like a mother and was known to us as 'Mums Nancy'. She instilled a different fire in the bellies of many young PNG researchers - many had our first jobs as associates with Nancy Sullivan & Associates Ltd.

Her memories will live forever in our hearts. We love you and will miss you. Rest in eternal peace Mums Nancy.

Garv Hoefler

I was very privileged to have been invited by Nancy along with my dear friend Chris Cutler to spend two months in PNG assessing the biota in two villages.

Getting to know her and work with her was one of the best times in my life.

She definitely served as a model for helping others and fighting for good causes all the while keeping it together with a terrific sense of humour and intense passion for the causes she loved.

As I write this, an immense ache is taking over and makes me realize it will be quite some time before I truly accept what has happened. PNG lost a truly wonderful person.

Percy Arek

We thank you for you contribution in Papua New Guinea especially in the field of research. We have learnt so much from you and you have contributed much to this land of ours. May God richly bless you. RIP.

John Kaupa Kamasua

Both newspapers in PNG have picked up the story from PNG Attitude today.

She made a presentation at the Mining and Development Conference early this year, in Port Moresby which was the last time many of us saw her. A great loss!

Salome Meung

A very close and dear friend personally to me. I will surely miss her terribly.

Claire Allum

I am shocked. It always seem to me that the wrong people are taken by accidents. She had done so much and was continuing to do so much for PNG and the people she cared for.

I am very sad. Rest in peace Nancy.

Bernard Singu Yegiora

A sponsor of the Rainbubu Award for the PNG Studies student with the best major research paper. Joseph Rainbubu was a former PNG Studies student who was employed by the late Nancy to work with her. He died of illness and to commemorate him the late Nancy sponsored the award every year. A great loss to the University and the nation.

Garry Roche

Very sad news. In the past two years I met her frequently at the Madang Club. We often talked about some of her work in Hagen (for Bob Bates) and her contacts years ago with Maggie Wilson and Tara Monahan (both also deceased). May Nancy rest in peace.

Gabriel Ramoi

Few white women have impacted on Anthropology in New Guinea. Nancy Sullivan's name will be listed among that of Beatrice Grimshaw, Margaret Mead, Marilyn Strathern and Louise Morauta as leaders in their field.

Nancy's contribution to the discovery and preservation of the Karawari art caves and her blog '19 years and counting' will forever remind us of her love for our country and people. Rest in Peace.

Geoff Hancock

Heart wrenching news. Nancy's last words to me on facebook were "nothing ventured,nothing gained." She took many risks during her admirable life in PNG but gained much fulfillment in return . So long Nancy.

Rashmii Bell

Very sad news about Ms Sullivan. I'd only started reading her blog 'Nineteen Years and Counting' in the past year. She was an inspirational woman indeed!

Phil Fitzpatrick

I don't really know what to say, such a shock.

Martina Apps

RIP, and God bless her heart. Yes, we have lost a beautiful sweetheart. My thoughts, prayers and condolences to her family with the injured victims. Very sorry.

Albert Schram

We are shocked by this sad news. I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but knew her through her writings. We wish all her family, relatives and friends much strength and faith in these difficult days.

Daniel Ipan Kumbon

PNG has lost a voice. What a sad way to end her life in the company of those she dearly loved. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Paul Gorecki

This is shocking news for her family and for all her PNG friends. Madang and villages up the Sepik, Karawari and Arafundi rivers have lost a true champion, a fearless fighter.

Peter Johnson

Very sad news! A fearless, outspoken and indefatigable foe to those she considered transgressors of that which is right and proper in PNG.

The people of Karawori and Madang have lost a true champion.

Barbara Short

Very very sad news for all of us Sepiks. May she rest in peace.

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