William Ricketts Sanctuary

Born on 11 December 1898 in Richmond, William Edward Ricketts, (Bill), was the last of four children of Alfred Clarence Ricketts and Susan Jones. Not trained as a potter, his works often exhibit cracking. In 1934 Bill started the sculpture park, now named William Ricketts Sanctuary, as a place for quiet reflection. He worked on this project until his death at the age of 94 on 9 September 1993. He believed that all Australians should adopt Aboriginal philosophies, respecting the spirituality of Mother Earth and all things in the natural world. He never married and although not rich, his art sales supported him. He spent 60 years living in and working on his ‘Forest of Love’. From 1949 to 1960 he made frequent trips into Central Australia to live with Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aborigines whose traditions and culture inspired his sculpture.

Man is nature’s masterpiece, therefore claim your inheritance by giving her the cooperation you owe.

William Ricketts

There are over 90 sculptures within the sanctuary grounds depicting Aboriginal people engaging with the earth in a forest setting. In 1964, the William Ricketts Sanctuary opened to the public and later that decade the Victorian Government bought the sanctuary, vowing to protect the sculptures and surrounding landscape.

Scattered throughout the mountain ash trees and tree ferns are 92 ceramic sculptures depicting indigenous people and their relationship with Mother Nature. The work is closely integrated with natural rock formations and tree trunks and a repeated theme is European settlement’s impact on the natural Australian landscape. There are many smaller sculptures hidden in the nooks of rocks, and at the foot of the sculptures are concentric circles representing the beginning of all life. Bill modelled each sculpture after the likeness of a real person, and among his most notable works are the Atirantuka Winged Figure and the depiction of his spiritual self beside a lyrebird totem. Throughout the sanctuary are archways, grottos and streams, all of which deepen the sense of tranquillity. Upon beginning the 500-metre journey, visitors will see an Inspiration Plaque which reads: In all this sanctuary there is one theme only expressing reverence for life in the new world environment. This is the first of many handmade plaques along the path, all of which include an observance made by Bill.

A drive to the Dandenongs – a serene place to visit following our imposed lockdown.
Location: 1402-1404 Mount Dandenong Tourist Road, Mount Dandenong.
Normally open 10am – 4:30pm daily.