Push for new $35k ‘Homeless Jesus’ statue

TWEED Shire Council will decide whether a $35,000 bronze statue of homeless Jesus should be erected in a highly visible homelessness hotspot.

John Lee, of You Have a Friend, has applied to have the statue placed at Jack Evans Boat Harbour at Tweed Heads.

The founder of the homeless support charity has frequently spoken out about the plight of those sleeping rough and complained of government inaction.

Examples of the statue were included in the caption.
Examples of the statue were included in the caption.

Mr Lee told the council installation of the statue would "indicate to Tweed and Australia that Tweed cares for those less fortunate".

Deputy Mayor Chris Cherry said she admired Mr Lee's work, but "the money could be spent helping people".

"To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure it's the right thing," she said.

"I think the sentiment is really great and I understand it, and I think the people behind it do a huge amount of good work in the community, but I tend to feel the homelessness in Jack Evans is right up in people's faces already. The people themselves are there."

Cr Cherry said council officers recommended refusal.

"It's a really sensitive issue. Of course, we want to be supportive of anything that helps, but I'm not sure this is the best way."

Photos in council documents show the design of "Homeless Jesus" would be based on a life-size man sleeping on a park bench.

He would be covered in a blanket with his feet sticking out, bearing holes in reference to stigmata and the crucifixion wounds of Jesus.

The installation proposes shipping the statue from the United States.
The installation proposes shipping the statue from the United States.

Mr Lee's application proposes shipping the statue from the United States.

But the council states "the installation of this statue in this precinct could prove highly divisive" and it's declared a "strong preference" against installing religious art.

"The concern relates to the likelihood that a statue of Jesus could leave a perception that council supports a particular religion, and may be perceived by others in the community as showing bias," the documents state.

Alternative areas suggested for investigation include Murwillumbah Civic Centre, the corner of Bay and Wharf streets in Tweed Heads, or the Tweed River foreshore.

The council's Public Art Reference Group has assessed the proposal and was not supportive, despite "acknowledging the intention".

It advised the council there was three Homeless Jesus statues in Australia, all situated on church property.

Mr Lee was contacted for comment.



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