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NATSEM founder recognised in Australia Day honours

Claudia Doman

26 January 2016: The founder and inaugural director of the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra, Emeritus Professor Ann Harding, has been recognised in the Australia Day Honours.

Professor Harding was made an Officer of the Order of Australia for "distinguished service to education in the field of applied economics and social policy analysis, as an academic, researcher and author, and to professional organisations".

Professor Harding, an internationally recognised expert in the fields of microsimulation modelling, income distribution and tax/transfer policy, said she was delighted by this distinction.

"This is a great honour," she said. "I particularly want to acknowledge the enormous contribution of staff and supporters of NATSEM over the years. It was very much a team effort!

"This is a fantastic recognition of the work that we undertook at NATSEM to contribute to public policy debate in Australia.

"I would like to thank the University of Canberra for its long-term vision and its support for so many years."

Professor Harding, who started NATSEM at an office over a fish and chip shop before moving to the University of Canberra and later settling into an $11 million state-of-the-art building on campus, founded the centre in January 1993.

She held the position of director for 16 years, before stepping down in mid-2009 to take on a research-based role within NATSEM and the University.

As director, Professor Harding led the development of highly sophisticated microsimulation models and databases, so that policy makers could gain much better information about the likely distributional impact of current and proposed policies.

She steered microsimulation modelling in Australia beyond its traditional 'tax and social security' focus to new areas such as health, aged care, housing and regional issues, with the goal of extending sophisticated quantitative decision-support tools to policy makers in these areas.

Professor Harding has published widely on income inequality, poverty, and the distributional impact of government programs and has been a prolific contributor to public policy debate in Australia.

In 1996 she was elected a fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and served as elected president of the International Microsimulation Association from 2004 to 2011.

She has also served on a range of government and academic boards and advisory committees. Prior to joining NATSEM Professor Harding worked on policy and research within the Federal departments of Social Security, Treasury and Health, Housing and Community Services.

The University of Canberra would also like to congratulate Emeritus Professor Mary Josephine O'Kane, for being made a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). Professor O'Kane, who is the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, was Dean of the University's former Faculty of Information Science and Engineering, from 1990 to 1994.