Selective Compassion – living in the burbs


I live in a fairly comfortable neighbourhood. We have the developers come a calling and offering to convert family homes into investment properties. We have shopping centres and all the latest brand names that go along with it.

We also suffer from selective compassion. I am aware that begging for money is a crime; the Victorian Law informs me that it is. Historically it is part of our legal process, and has been for a long time (see Vagrancy (Repeal) and Summary Offences (Amendment) Act 2005† [Assented to 13 September 2005] 49A. Begging or gathering alms (1) A person must not beg or gather alms .Penalty: 12 months imprisonment.) The laws changed as time went on and now we historically see the changes to the Act – (d) begs or gathers alms or causes or procures or encourages a child to beg or gather alms.In 2016 (Sue Pennicuik Introduced in the Council PARLIAMENT OF VICTORIA Summary Offences Amendment (Begging or Gathering Alms) Bill 2016)A Bill for an Act to amend the Summary Offences Act 1966 to repeal the offence of begging or gathering alms and for other purposes.The Parliament of Victoria enacts: 1 Purpose-The purpose of this Act is to amend the Summary Offences Act 1966 to repeal the offence of begging or gathering alms.5          2 CommencementThis Act comes into operation on the day after the day on which it receives the Royal Assent.)

Anyway, I digress. I am not a lawyer and we have legislation that allows people to be moved on and all manner of directions that apply to the movement and non-movement of people.

My interest was piqued when a person that I know to be facing hardship was spoken to by police. The police were polite and professional, informed this person that begging was not acceptable and suggested that he move on. That was the result of a member of the public taking offence at another begging for alms.

Alms is a historic word. We give alms to those that need a hand, it’s an act of kindness, section 49A of the current Summary Offences Act in relation to Begging or gathering alms states: – s. 49A

(1)          A person must not beg or gather alms.

Penalty:               12 months imprisonment.

(2)          A person must not cause, procure or encourage a child to beg or gather alms.

Penalty:               12 months imprisonment.


Much has been said in Australia by certain political leaders and religious leaders that Australia is a Christian Country; we have had expressions of selective compassion by the bucket load. Compassion to collect monies and send them off shore to build classes that give ‘Bible Lessons ‘ to those deemed in need of those . Strangely though, the people that knock on my door on a Sunday, smiling and handling a chocolate bar with the words “Our Church is collecting money for a Bible Class room in Africa “, very often belong to those established and well-funded organizations that have an issue with members of the LGBTIQ Communities and those seen as somewhat less deserving because parameters for compassion seme very circumscribed.

I have always been under the impression that compassion in all things was an unconditional act and avoided judging another; conditional compassion must raise questions about the agenda of those having an attack of that.

Alms giving in a Christian context are meant to have universal application and do not ask for judgement. But we live in a real world and people will be people.

In addition, private acts of charity, considered virtuous only if not done for others to admire, are seen as a Christian duty. ( ttps://

Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

— Matthew 6:1

The outward and an inward giving of alms:
Here Jesus places the primary focus on the motives behind such acts, which should be love.

Rather, give as alms what is inside, and then everything will be clean for you!

— Luke 11:41

Jesus commends this poor but generous woman.

Giving of the rich versus the poor:
Here Jesus contrasts the giving of the rich and the poor

He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, ‘Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.’— Luke 21:1–4

Giving out of Love and not out of duty: He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’Matthew 25:45


I know that compassion and kindness are hard to come by in many settings. Police must enforce the laws that Parliament writes at the behest of the voting public.

But what does this selective compassion say about the communities that we live in? The communities that we are part of?

Do certain groups, having more political sway or marketability deserve more compassion? Are there causes that merit more compassion and social consciousness than others? Do we limit compassion to groups that can rally and make waves for those seen to be suffering and lacking obvious compassion?

I understand that Police must respond to a call, an alleged breach of the law. On the scale of things, that call to address the perceived confronting image of one beggar must place into question the use of costly policing resources. I cannot in my heart question the motive of the police, they are bound to answer calls from the public and cannot refuse to attend calls and ignore them. Callers will complain for the lack of ‘police action’ when it comes to such confronting images as a person begging alms.

Certainly a confronting image in a country as wealthy as Australia, a country where compassion and kindness appear to be at a premium and are doled out depending on public perception.

I have no idea why a human being would feel the need to call for police assistance when facing a person begging alms. It’s not my job to speculate on the many motives and agenda that others have.

It does concern me though that we live in a society that is so very selective about who is deserving, who is underserving and how easily those labels are applied! AK

References below

Selective Compassion Boronia 16th of May 2916

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