Aboriginal artist and activist Gordon Syron and his wife, photographer Elaine Syron, own an extensive collection of Aboriginal artworks, photographs, artefacts, books, oral history, film, documents and news clippings from around the country that record and document the Aboriginal rights movement of the 1970’s. In about 2007, the Syrons and their collection moved into a disused warehouse owned by a local government authority. In 2009, they were asked to vacate the premises amidst growing concerns about the safety and stability of the building. The Syrons had no immediate viable alternative accommodation in which to house their unique collection. Indeed, they were engaged in a long-running and public quest to find a benefactor who could provide a permanent space where the collection could be securely displayed to the public in a manner consistent with its Indigenous cultural significance.
The Syrons contacted Artists in the Black (AITB) which suggested that the Arts Law mediation service might be a useful way of working out solution acceptable to both the Syrons and the government authority. Mediation is a process in which parties to a problem are assisted by an independent mediator to explore the issues between them and generate options for agreement as a way of finding a joint solution.
Well known Sydney barrister Angela Bowne SC, an experienced mediator, agreed to mediate on a pro bono basis. The firm of Freehills provided pro bono assistance to the Syrons during the mediation process. The parties were able to reach agreement at the mediation. The details of that agreement are confidential.
This case not only illustrates that a practical solution can be achieved through negotiation, but that mediation may provide a reasonable alternative to litigation. Mediation can therefore save time and money.