April 2019 newsletter - Mardi Dungey

18 Apr 2019

I first met Mardi when she came to ANU to do a PhD. She and her husband Ross were then into rock climbing. I wondered if that was a good choice for an academic career. However, when you realize that it makes you work with fellow climbers, learn new things, be adaptable, want to finish the climb, and to set your eyes on the next one you haven’t climbed, one sees that it is good training for academic life.  Mardi used all these features in her career. Her central focus was always on the use of data to address what was going on so as to provide input into solving important policy issues.

She was the sort of student you always want. Her thesis had two major components — one on a factor structure for bilateral exchange rates and one on SVARs for small open economies like Australia. The latter paper was awarded the best paper prize in the Economic Record in 2000.

In those days it wasn’t easy to get a job in Australia with a local doctorate and Mardi went to La Trobe University in 1998. She was given a tough teaching and supervision load but she excelled in these tasks.  The Asian crisis happened at that point and she responded to it by asking how to model the contagion that came with.  Her work on that continued for the remainder of her career and is her best cited work.

In 2000 there was a ‘second coming’ to ANU.  This time to the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. Warwick McKibbin says in his ANU obituary that ‘ ..she was a dynamo’ and was immersed in everything — administration, supervision, teaching. What showed up was ‘an unusual balance of common sense, outstanding academic ability and an entrepreneurial flare’.   This was the Mardi always in evidence, no matter where she was.

It was not surprising when she moved on to Cambridge where she was deputy director of the then Cambridge Endowment for Research in Finance.  Cambridge really cemented her international reputation.  She started to work with people like Charles Goodhart of the LSE and also developed an interest in the modelling of high frequency financial times series with their quirks like ‘jumps’. 

2008 saw a return to her alma mater of the University of Tasmania where she remained until her death. During this decade she attracted many staff and visitors. A continuing theme was her workshops on macroeconometric models that were being used in Australia. There was one in December 2018. She couldn’t attend but all the modellers attested to her impact on them through both her written and oral communication.  

During the decade back in Tasmania she started to think about networks and how to use those ideas to look at contagion and crises. As ever, this showed an impressive ability to move on to the next peak to scale.

During 2018 she was heavily involved in the construction of a new model at the Commonwealth Treasury. For many years she had been advising them on these issues. 

2018 was meant to be a year’s leave. She had a great time despite worsening health and, in many communications, she said how much she was enjoying meeting people and hearing about new ideas. Coming back from the leave early the back problems she had had for many years were now found to be a symptom of cancer and her decline was shockingly fast.

At her death Mardi had published almost 100 papers. In 2018 she published nine papers and in many years she published six. In recognition, she had been elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and the Society of Financial Econometrics. More honours would have come.

Mardi gave extensive service to the profession. She had been an Editor of the Economic Record, an Associate Editor of the Journal of Applied Econometrics, the Journal of Asian Economics and the Journal of Banking and Finance as well as acting on numerous committees. There was a constant demand for her as a referee, discussant and speaker. She was to be the keynote speaker at the INFINITI conference on International Finance. That day she was in the Hospice.

Despite all those activities she still found time to be a great mentor to both female and male junior scholars and to be an educator in the widest sense — not just to university students and other colleagues but to primary school students and to many business groups.

Those of you who knew her will be aware that she was always interested in people. At her memorial, students noted that in her regular meetings with them she would always ask about their family, and celebrate their achievements, before even getting to critically analyse what they had done.

In the Baptism service it is said ‘Shine as a Light in the world’. Mardi shone brightly. She is greatly missed.

Adrian Pagan

University of Sydney