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My life’s journey with Dr Bill Standish

Sarah Garap
Sarah Garap - "It seemed as though he actually came to say goodbye"


Sarah Garap is a community development specialist and was one of the first women health inspectors in Papua New Guinea. She is an activist for women and human rights issues and is co-founder of two women's organisations in the Highlands - Kup Women for Peace and Meri I Kirap Sapotim

CANBERRA - A journey describes life in this broken world.

My journey with angra (brother) Bill Standish is a story of more than 20 years, beginning in 1994. I will write a tribute to him when my head is cleared from the shock of his passing.

For now, it’s this journey to the Australian National University on 1 March this year.

I have always stayed with Bill and Sue in all my trips to ANU – 1997, 2003, 2018, and 2019.

In March he picked me up at the airport when I arrived at 10 pm.

He gave me his old Vodaphone so I did not have to buy a new one.

He took me to ANU for my placement; to see admin and meet people.

He took me to the student accommodation and helped me with my bags. I was to move after three nights’ accommodation to another location. He remembered.

After the International Women’s Day meeting finished at nearly 5 pm, he pulled me aside and said, “We have to go now. The office may close and you have to get to your new accommodation”.

Yes, sure enough. We met the person looking after accommodation arrangements. After I checked in, we went shopping.

Sue came back from her trip to India trip on 8 March. After she settled in, I was invited 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, 30 March at 8:30 to give me a book. Now that I recall, it seemed as though he actually came to say goodbye. 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 31 March at 6 am. Around that time he was rushed to hospital by Sue and Jane, Sue’s daughter. Around midday, he passed away.

Upon return to Canberra, I called him at 2 pm from Belconnen public bus station. Jane 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 touched 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 are 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!


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Philip Kai Morre

Sarah, your teardrops are real, you will not know a person until death when you will recall all the memories of a good person.

Dr Bill Standish helped us a lot. I felt the pain when Paula Brown died because she helped me with my work. Both Bill Standish and Paula Brown stayed at Mindima for many years.

Their field house in Mindima will be empty but the memories live on.

Jane Maladina

Lovely story, Sarah. So sad to learn of his passing. These sort of people are hard to find these days.

Theresa Meki

A few years ago when I published my first In Brief, I got an email from Bill which simply read, ‘Hi Theresa, Good to see that you’re writing.’ The rest of the email were morsels of information and an attachment- some of his notes about women in the 2007 election. Since then, whenever he finds anything (journal articles, news links, documentaries, books), he would always email them to me or bring it to my office. He was a regular visitor to office Room 4002, Coombs building. Whenever he’d stop by, I’d pause everything and give him my full attention. He was a good storyteller and a great listener, one of those few people who will listen to understand and not just listen to respond. A genuine and humble man.

Whenever I attend events or seminars happening on ANU campus, I usually find myself standing or sitting next to Bill. As an Ambai, it’s like he is a ‘kandre’ of mine, his very presence was affirming and encouraging as if to say, ‘mi stap, yu kam- em ples ya, yumi stap’.

My last long conversation with Bill was a couple of months ago, it must have lasted around 3 hours, we talked about Iambakey Okuk, incumbent Simbu politicians, women candidates, PNG contemporary art and everything in between. His mind was a treasure house of information and insight. I will surely miss his presence in the corridors of Coombs.
Thank you Bill for sharing your life with Simbu and Papua New Guinea.
Ena parawaii, RIP Angra Bill.

Mathias Kin

Sarah my sister. A very emotional tribute to a truly great man. Thank you.

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