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July 31, 2016 | by  | in Māori Matters |
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Our duty to act fairly

Disclaimer: I’m not a law student, so this piece is more about experience and not fact.

Second disclaimer: I wrote this two hours before sending it to the Salient editors. #offthecuff

Natural justice is one of the fundamental tenets of our justice system. Natural justice extends beyond the judicial system to administrative (ie. government) decision making, and even to how we ourselves treat each other when we are involved in a dispute. In its simplest form, natural justice requires fairness, transparency, and an absence of bias. Without natural justice our individual rights would be severly curtailed, much like living in an autocratic society.

80 per cent of the time (these are not real statistics) we are, at least to some extent, biased because we base our opinions on our own experiences. We pick a side of an argument based on the character of a person (about what we ‘think’ we know about them), based on the influences of our friends and family and what they believe, based on what’s happend to us in the past and how that made us feel. There have been many times when we’ve ruled with our hearts and not with our minds—without logic and clarity. And many times we have formed our views without hearing both sides of an argument.

Recently I have been stuck between a rock and a hard place. With many of my loved ones being on different sides of the same argument, while I seemed to be rooted right in the middle—torn between friendships and loyalties. I am known for being direct and a person of action, but never before have I felt so paralysed, so stuck. How do you choose one friendship over another when they both mean so much to you? How do you choose the ‘right side’ when you can’t see which side is right and which side is wrong? How can you choose a ‘right side’ when you haven’t even heard both sides of the argument from the horse’s mouth? I am now realising the challenges of ruling without bias. How being ‘on the fence’ can lead to more issues than making a choice. I’ve come to understand that the road to justice, to the truth, is not as straight forward as I once thought it to be. I am learning that the cost of doing the right thing is a high price to pay, and I’m not sure if we’re always willing to pay it.   

But whatever we do, we do need to be sure that all sides of an argument are given the chance to have their say, that we listen, and that we act fairly, transparently, and without bias.

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