St Paul's Anglican Cathedral erects statues of cruficied refugees outside church

A startling artwork inside the grounds of a Bendigo church renowned for its political activism is stopping passers-by in their tracks. 

Inside the grounds of St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral on Tuesday, three figures – one a pregnant woman, another a child – could be seen suspended from wooden crosses in a manner reminiscent of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. 

The barbed wire sculptures are labelled Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island, the three places Australia operates offshore detention centres for asylum seekers.

The statues’ appearance precedes Good Friday, the day that marks Jesus’ death on the cross.

A sign beside the artwork reads: “Look right to see the evil of deterrence. Come inside to hear good news of love.” 

Members of the St Paul’s congregation installed the statues this week in the lead-up to Good Friday, the day that marks Jesus’ death on the cross.

The cathedral’s dean, John Roundhill, said he was expected the artwork to shock Bendigonians but believed it was his cathedral’s duty to advocate on behalf of those less fortunate, including refugees. 

“Our hope is that it raises awareness and people understand there is a deep, deep connection between the issues currently besetting out world and the Christian story,” Mr Roundhill said.

“For many of us, Easter has become a time of chocolate bunnies and eggs, but there's another story: the crucifixion of a Jewish man on the cross.”

Deterrence is the work of Melbourne reverend John Tansey, who first erected them outside his St Kilda parish for Easter in 2014. 

“The work reflects on the way the cross was used in the past as a tool for political experience, fear and intimidation and the way Australian governments are continuing to treat men, women and children refugees in offshore detention centres,” a note beside the artwork explained.  

Their installation in Bendigo is not St Paul’s first foray into the political commentary.

A statue of pioneer James Cook that stands inside the St Paul’s grounds has previously been dressed in rainbow attire for the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, as well as a raincoat and flippers to lament global warming.

Young People for Refugees founder Tayla Hansen welcomed the sculptures’ appearance, saying they were “eye catching and perhaps even daunting.”

“But if that is what has to happen for people to take notice and pay attention to what our government is using as a "deterrence" then so be it,” Ms Hansen said.