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The Impact of Māori Cultural Values on Forensic Science Practice in New Zealand

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Forensic science aims to serve society by advancing justice. It is accepted that some actions taken by the state in the interests of advancing justice, such as postmortem examinations, may impinge on values held by members of groups within society. Such actions have the potential to cause cultural offense. It is important that forensic scientists are aware of these issues and that as a profession we should take actions, where possible, to reduce any potential offense and consequently reduce unnecessary distress. This paper examines the impact of these issues on forensic practice in New Zealand, and, in particular, in relation to the cultural values of Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. Interviews and workshops were used to identify forensic practices involving a risk of cultural offense. Particular issues were identified in regard to crime scene attendance and examination, postmortem attendance and sample storage, disposal, and return. This paper describes the response developed by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR) to address these issues, including a cultural awareness training package and reference brochure.
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Keywords: New Zealand Māori; cultural values; forensic science

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Mount Albert Science Centre, Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited (ESR), Private Bag 92-021, Auckland, New Zealand. 2: New Zealand Drug Foundation—Te Tuapapa Tarukino o Aotearoa, PO Box 3082, Wellington, New Zealand.

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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