Dr Sylvia Walton AO (Collis, 1957)

Dr Sylvia Walton AO (Collis, 1957) was widely recognised as a passionate educator and an outstanding educational leader and was highly awarded for her distinguished contribution to Australian educational across all levels. Silvia’s post nominals: EdD (hc LTU), BA, MA, Dip Ed (Syd), B Ed (LTU), FRGS, FAICD, FACEL, FACE, FAPC, ACEL Gold Medal.

Sylvia Collis (1957) enrolled into Year 4 at MLC School in 1950. For her outstanding results in the 1957 Leaving Certificate she was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship for tertiary studies.

Early in her career, Sylvia was a teacher of History and Geography. She then became the Deputy Head of Campus at Caulfield Grammar School Wheelers Hill, Principal of Tintern Grammar (Melbourne), St Catherine’s School (Melbourne) and was Executive Principal at Loreto College, Adelaide. Her experience of implementing innovative programs and setting new benchmarks earned her the reputation as one of Australia’s foremost Principals.

From 2006 to 2011 Sylvia served as Chancellor of La Trobe University (the second woman to serve in this role). In 2011, she was awarded a Doctorate of Education (honoris causa) in recognition of her outstanding leadership as Chancellor and council member of La Trobe University, and for addressing issues of access in higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Sylvia’s involvement with La Trobe University spanned many years: she completed her Bachelor of Education in the 1970s, joined the Council in 1993, was elected the deputy chancellor in 1997 and then Chancellor from 2006 to 2011.

During her last year at La Trobe University, the University established a new scholarship in the name of its outgoing Chancellor. The aim of the 'Sylvia Walton Scholarship' is to support a commencing student at La Trobe University who would otherwise not have the opportunity to undertake tertiary studies due to financial hardship and/or educational disadvantage. Sylvia other titular scholarship at La Trobe University, 'Sylvia Walton Honours Scholarship', was established to support a psychology autistic student undertaking their Honours year.

The 'Sylvia Walton Building' was completed in 2014 on the La Trobe University campus, named in recognition of Sylvia’s outstanding leadership at the University. This new 5-star energy rated building for international students gives La Trobe College students the opportunity to experience campus life alongside La Trobe University students and is used for students studying English intensives, foundation studies and diploma programs.

The list of honours in Sylvia’s name are many, and also include: the annual 'Sylvia Walton Oration' – the most prominent feature of the Australian College of Educators Victorian calendar – delivered by an outstanding contributor to education, highlighting contemporary issues faced by the education community. Another honour is the 'Dr Sylvia Walton AO Alumni Scholarship' at Tintern Grammar for families who would not normally have the financial means to attend the school.

Sylvia was the recipient of numerous awards, including: 'The Sir James Darling Medal for Education' (Primary, Secondary and Tertiary), 'ACEL Fellowship' in 1998 and the 'Nganakarrawa Award' in 2004. In 2007, Sylvia was awarded the most prestigious award conferred by the Australian Council for Educational Leaders; its Gold Medal. This Medal is presented annually to an educator whose contribution to the study and practice of educational administration and leadership is assessed as most outstanding on a national level.

In 2014 Sylvia was one of 20 women to be inducted into the Victorian Honour Roll which acknowledges the contribution, leadership and achievements of exceptional women and celebrates the positive impact of their work in diverse areas of expertise, fields and sectors within the Victorian community. At the time, La Trobe Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar congratulated Sylvia by saying ‘Dr Walton is an outstanding educational leader with a reputation as one of Australia’s foremost educators and she strongly deserves this honour. …For many years she has remained deeply dedicated to addressing issues of access to – and participation in – higher education for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. She was chair of the Equity, Access and Personal Welfare Committee of La Trobe University over a long period.’

In 2003, Sylvia was awarded the second highest award in Australia; Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia (AO), in recognition of her leadership and education at the secondary and tertiary levels.

After her retirement at the end of 2013, Sylvia held numerous directorships on school, college and university councils, most recently, the Loreto Mandeville Hall Toorak and The Geelong College councils. Her advice was regularly sought by a number of Government and non-Government boards when developing their educational policy and was a member of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Board and an executive member of the Victorian Institute of Teaching Accreditation Committee. Sylvia was highly regarded for her inventive style and commitment to social and equity justice.  

Throughout her career, Sylvia spoke of the privilege of playing a role in the education of young people, from pre-school through to university and the enormous responsibility that comes with it: ‘Apart from parenting, I cannot conceive of a more important role in life than having the opportunity of influencing our greatest asset – our young people, our future leaders – and providing opportunities through which they can succeed in life,’ she said.


Sylvia Walton Building (La Trobe website)
Sylvia Walton Building (Australian Design Review website)

Silvia Walton Oration

Geelong College Directors

Australian Council for Educational Leaders Awards

Victorian Honour Roll of Women