Begs belief: Backpackers take advantage of charity

January 6th, 2015 | | industry

Screen shot 2015-01-07 at 3.20.57 AMThe Salvation Army have raised concerns that backpackers are begging in the streets of Melbourne in order to subsidize their travel plans.

Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle said up to a third of Melbourne’s beggars are in fact overseas tourists. He said the majority of these people were men from Germany or Sweden, under the age of 30, and not genuinely in need of aid.

“Some of those international backpackers are operating on a very tight budget and so in their minds, they see it as OK to beg to try to raise additional funds,” Maj Nottle said.

“They don’t see that there are any issues with begging. They think that’s just something they can do.”

He urged people not to fall for the scam.

“Often Melbournians have good hearts, they want to help, so if a person finds themselves in that situation and they want to help, we suggest offer to buy the person a meal,” he said.

The Salvation Army said some charities have also encountered homeless foreign students who are living in real poverty.

Salvation Army’s Major Brendan Nottle told The Age backpackers often sold bracelets they had made, or raised money with chalk drawings. “So technically, it could be seen as busking, even though they do not have a licence.”

Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is aware of the issue and warns backpackers that what they are doing is breaking the law.

“Tourists may not be aware that begging is illegal in Victoria and it’s important that we communicate with them and put them in contact with the services they need.”

In September 2014, the Irish Independent reported that a soup kitchen owner in Perth had experienced a surge in the number of backpackers queuing alongside the city’s homeless every day for free meals. It was reported that backpackers were costing Perth soup kitchens upwards of $30,000 per year.


Written by Alex Harmon 


5 Responses

  1. Rick says:

    Anything and everything for nothing.. No money for food or to pay for accommodation, yet enough money to buy alcohol and cigarettes..

    Beggars Belief alright!! Should be making examples of some and ensuring others know they cannot do it.. Now they have started word will get about it can be done and you will only get a slap on the wrist if caught…

  2. Hi there,

    I read your articles with great interest and thought I would share some news from NZ… do you had similar issues in Australia?

    I believe there are some instances where ‘working holiday visas’ should be revoked. When a tourist are behaving ‘recklessly’ ‘breaking the law’ can not ‘afford to stay in the country’ …. to name a few

    about us; We are a law abiding ‘working hostel’ in the ‘kiwifruit capital’ we have noticed various changes in the past 10 years.

    We have seen a huge increase in ‘brazen backpackers found free-loading in our hostel’ taking showers, sleeping in vans (not equipped with ablution facilities required by our ‘freedom camping’ laws). Even found backpackers ‘not checked in to the hostel’ helping them selves to other people food and cooking up meals.
    We have also seen an increase in the number of backpackers claiming to be broke even though they are newly arrived to the country (working holiday visa requires funds of over $4000 and flight ticket out of the country” ‘…

  3. Brooke says:

    Interesting that Melbourne is having an issue with this.

    I run a 96-bed hostel in Mt Maunganui, NZ (Pacific Coast Lodge) and the Salvation Army in our city, previously offered us the opportunity to collect the left over bread from the Bakery every week, and offer it for free to any of our backpackers who wanted it. The only condition was that we could not onsell it, and must be placed out for the backpackers to take if they wanted it.

    For almost a year it became known as Free Bread Friday, and we did even offer it to one of the local churches for families in need also. As we understood, other local charities and churches took it in turns to collect on different nights of the week, as the Bakery didn’t want to throw it out. What a great community we live in!

    When this opportunity arose, we were also told by the Salvation Army that food parcels were also available to any person staying with us, who may want assistance with their groceries each week. All they needed to do was turn up with their passport, and they would be given a food box with essentials for the week.
    I’m not sure if any of the backpackers took up this offer, but I was thankful that they considered them.

    It’s not every day you see this kind of generosity.

    We cannot fault the backpacker for graciously accepting handouts, if they are presented to them.

    I suppose from another angle, how much money are the backpackers bringing into our economy? How much are they spending on local tourism, activities, adventures etc?
    The majority of backpackers that we meet, are hard working individuals, looking to save enough money to fund the rest of their travels to buy bus tickets, and accommodation, and adventure passes, and this just makes the world go round.

    I don’t agree with the act of begging, not for a second. But we need to remember that live in a world where if you don’t ask, you don’t receive.

    Everyone has the ability to say No.

    • Lisa says:

      I know this is an old post, but… Graciously accepting handouts? You make it seem like they are doing us a favour. No, it’s freeloading. I give to charity to help people who are genuinely in need. Not travellers who want locals to subsidize their trip at the expense of the homeless etc. If you can’t afford to support yourself while traveling then don’t travel. Simple as that! Travelling is a luxury, not a right.

  4. Brett Hetherington says:

    quite believable… we have a much used charity in Byron Bay called liberation larder which is desperately needed by the local homeless people. Its quite disgusting to see Freeloading backpackers lining up to eat their food. twice a week. The same people seem to have money to party every night and money for dopeand new guitars so that they can live the Byron dream….mommy and daddys little w***ers.