Does mediation have a role in resolving conflict related to cultural property: the interface between public institutions, industry groups and the community.

Ms Helen Shurven1

1Murdoch University, Perth, Australia

This session outlines research which canvasses how public museums resolve issues related to cultural property.

It focuses on moveable, tangible objects/items and not on intangible objects/items or values. It explores what mechanisms public museums currently use to resolve conflict related to cultural property which may include court, mediation or arbitration.

The effectiveness of any mediation used to date will be explored, as will the impediments to using mediation.

There is evidence which suggests trafficking in cultural property is increasing. It is therefore likely that conflict about cultural property between government, industry groups and the community will increase.

This research will take three geographical areas, analyse the approach from museums in each area, and examine whether there are any significant similarities or differences between them. The research will also look at whether any learnings can be gleaned from each approach. Such learnings may be used by museums to inform their policy approach to issues related to cultural property, including issues related to illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

This research will use a socio-legal method to examine the systems available to participants in such conflicts and their limits in a social context. The approach will be jointly a comparative and empirical one, looking at museums in the three geographical areas, and conducting interviews with people within these museums who have been involved in, or would be likely to be involved in, these issues should they arise. This would allow an insight into the operation of the law in a practical sense.


Ms Helen Shurven is a part time doctoral student at Murdoch University.  She is an accredited mediator under the Australian National Mediator Standards and has been mediating since 1993, including in a cross cultural context. She is a member of a Tribunal in Australia and conducts mediations between multiple parties, in city and country locations.  Helen also conducts arbitrations in matters where parties cannot reach agreement.  These arbitral decisions can be subject to appeal to the Federal Court of Australia.

Helen has a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Psychology from the University of Western Australia and a Bachelor of Laws and Master of Education from Murdoch University.  She was admitted to practice as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in 1997.

She is a member of the Australian Mediation Association and has been an adjudicator for the Schools Conflict Resolution and Mediation Program since 2003. She has also been a member of the Council of Australasian Tribunals since 2013. She was a Board member for Relationships Australia (WA) from 2008-2016, serving as President for three of those years

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