Learning Difficulties Australia


Mona Tobias Award

Learning Difficulties Australia makes an annual award known as the Mona Tobias Award. Each year, an Award Committee of three council members considers all nominations and makes recommendations to council, who makes the final decision as to the award’s recipient.

The Mona Tobias Award recognises a person who has made an outstanding contribution to Australian education of people with learning difficulties, perhaps leadership, research, practice, teacher and community education, and is given in memory of Mona Tobias, who was a great teacher and pioneer in helping children and adults with learning disabilities.

Mona Tobias

Emily Mona Tobias, B.E.M. died on 1 October 1980 at the age of 74 years. She had borne a painful illness with great fortitude.

The other attributes by which most of us remember her, of course, are her quite exceptional skills as a teacher and her devotion to handicapped children. I had the privilege of being an observer while she taught children on many occasions and the abilities which impressed me most were her uncanny understanding and even anticipation of a child's changing feelings, and the ease with which she would instantly change her method, or even just her tone of voice to match the child's responses. Early in her career with the Education Department, her own ill health forced her to join the Correspondence School, from which she became involved with the victims of the poliomyelitis epidemic of the late 1930's. In the course of this work she met the late Dame Jean Macnamara, another indefatigable worker for the handicapped children, to whom I am personally indebted for introducing me (and hence SPELD) to Mona.

Dame Jean had a tremendous admiration for Mona as a person and for her teaching skills, and these skills were also admired by Sir Fred and Lady Schonell as evidenced by a personal letter in her possession, but which she rarely showed to anyone. Humility was another attribute she possessed to quite an unusual degree.

Mona resigned from the Education Department before the due date in order to study learning disabilities under Sam Clements at the University of Arkansas. She then commenced a second career in close association with SPELD. In this work she must have exerted a very considerable influence on primary teaching in Victoria. Many thousands of teachers came voluntarily to be instructed by her and many hundreds of children owe directly her their rescue from the despair of failure. She also inspired many hundreds of parents to provide intelligent support for their learning disabled children. In spite of illness and failing eyesight she continued to see children in her own home until her final admission to hospital.

Pat Larsen

2020 Recipient: Dr Bartek Rajkowski

Bartek Mona Tobias 2020 
Bartek is a speech & language pathologist with extensive experience in the assessment, identification and remediation of reading and spelling difficulties. He is the director of Adelaide Speech Pathology Services where he has led a team of like-minded clinicians since 2001.

Following his doctoral research investigating the relationship between phonological processing, orthographic processing and reading difficulties, Bartek developed a passion for helping teachers improve their knowledge of the structure of the English language, reading research and reading difficulties. He regularly presents his workshops to audiences around Australia and to speech & language pathology students as a casual lecturer at Flinders University. You can view one of his recent presentations on LDA’s Youtube Channel by clicking here.

 Bartek has been a member of LDA’s governing council since 2016. He is a prominent advocate for students with learning difficulties and has been involved with various lobby groups, including the team that helped persuade the Australian Government to implement the Year 1 Phonics Check. Bartek is also the creator of Reading Doctor, a popular suite of evidence-based, interactive teaching tools designed to improve literacy skills in students who are learning to read.


Previous Recipients 


2019 Jennifer Buckingham

2018 Alison Clark

2017 Professor Pamela Snow

2016 Dr Roslyn Neilson

2015 Emeritus Professor Brian Byrne

2014 Mandy Nayton

2013 Dr Rhonda Farkota

2012 Dr Molly de Lemos

2011 Angela Weeks, Clinical Director of SPELD, SA

2010 Dr Lorraine Hammond

2009 Dr Ken Rowe (Posthumous Award)

2008 Professor Kevin Wheldall

2007 Professor Max Coltheart

2006 Dr Kerry Hempenstall

2005 Daryl Greaves

2004 Wendy Scott

2003 Christina van Kraayenoord

2002 Mike Stock

2000 Elizabeth Love and Sue Reilly

1999 Nick Thurbon

1998 Dr. Peter Westwood - Associate Professor, Associate Dean and Coordinator of  the Bachelor of Special Education course at Flinders University, South Australia

1997 Professor John Elkins - Schonell Centre, The University of Queensland

1996 Professor Margot Prior - research, teaching, clinical practice

1995 Christopher Davidson- founding editor of LDA's journal, practitioner

1994 Dr John Munro - Research, Practitioner

1993 Professor Lorna K.S. Chan - educational research

1992 Dr.Frank Oberklaid - learning difficulties

1991 Dr Stewart Sykes - learning difficulties

1990 Ian Macmillan - learning difficulties

1989 Professor Gordon Stanley- research

1988 No award presented

1987 Dr Mildred Green - School Medical Service, President of SPELD

1986 Bruce Wicking - founder, Currajong School

1985 Kevin Stone - integration

1984 Professor Marie Neale - Krongold Centre

1983 Professor John McLeod - research

1982 Alwyn Samuel - early intervention

1981 Ann Keir - auditory perception


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