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William Ricketts Sanctuary

Home > Melbourne > Art | Family | Free | Gardens | Outdoor
by Lorraine A (subscribe)
Avid trail runner, freelance writer and a mother of four with a healthy obsession for the great outdoors. Join me in my discoveries along the Mornington Peninsula and further afield by subscribing to my articles.
Published October 2nd 2014
With free entry it's well worth a visit

Tranquil surrounds, towering mountain ash, fern trees and unique sculptures best describes William Ricketts Sanctuary along with peaceful, original and mystical.

Here you will find many of the life's work of William Ricketts, a man born 1893 in Richmond, Victoria that became an Australian potter and sculptor who created the 92 kiln baked clay sculptures of Aboriginal inspired artworks and Australian wildlife throughout the beautiful natural surrounds of the 'Potters Sanctuary' on Mount Dandenong which is now called William Ricketts Sanctuary.

Surprisingly, given the the influence of the sculptures William himself was not aboriginal but embraced the aboriginal culture and vision so much so that he made several trips to Central Australia to live with the Pitjantjatjara & Arrernte people whose tradition and culture inspired his sculptures.

William's works became so popular that the Australian government purchased his 4 acre Potters Sanctuary in the 1960's to open it to the public and renamed it William Ricketts Sanctuary. William remained living and creating sculptures until his passing in 1993 at age 94.

Art has and always be open to interpretation and what one person loves another will loathe. The thing that sets this apart from any gallery or exhibition is the natural surrounds with lush ferns and flowing water with sculptures that look to naturally emerge from the forest.

Some of the reviews left by other people include:
" Peace and quiet lets you fall into the depths of your inner self"".
" More unusual with each sculpture".
" Truly magical".
" Aboriginal with religious overtones".
" Absolutely glorious setting".

These are but a few comments though you can see opinions vary.

Personally I find the sanctuary to be a place of natural beauty and calmness despite being located on one of the busiest tourist roads. Almost a place to escape the crowds for half an hour of downtime. As for the sculptures I could certainly appreciate the work involved within the sanctuary and certain pieces are outstanding. I did find the more we ventured towards the back of the sanctuary that the sculptures had a religious overtone to them, almost shrine like towards the cottage but had we had more time I would have watched the documentary of William Ricketts to better understand the sculptures meanings.

Williams cottage at the back of the sanctuary

I did notice certain reviewers questioning whether the sanctuary was suitable for children? My answer to that is yes, although they may be bored in a short amount of time, if they are anything like mine but they will enjoy trying to find and count out the 92 sculptures and go along the meandering paths to find out where they go. Of course children are naturally inquisitive and like to use all their senses when seeing something for the first time so it is important to remind them that the sculptures are for looking.

The Parks Victoria Rangers present on the day were passionate about the garden and very welcoming especially to the children.

Unfortunately some of the sculptures have been damaged by falling trees and branches but the majority are fine and the others are in the process of being repaired.

Overall I think the sanctuary is not going to appeal to everyone but at the same time it's definitely worth a look. Personally I wouldn't spend more than an hour here at a time and would incorporate it into a day out in the Dandenongs as opposed making it the main destination for the day.
William Ricketts sanctuary is world renowned with many international visitors coming to visit. With FREE entry there's no reason not to visit really and if you enjoy it as we did you can leave a donation or purchase some items from the visitor information center to help with the upkeep of the sanctuary.

Visitor information center and gift shop

Getting there: The sanctuary is located on Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd, Mt Dandeong. Car parking is located on the opposite side of the road to the sanctuary, however there are 2 disabled parking spots in front of the sanctuary. Opening hours are 10am - 4:30pm daily (except Christmas day). The video of William Ricketts is shown throughout the day in the cottage at the back of the sanctuary. Entry is free.

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Why? Historic Australian sculptures
When: 10am - 4:30 Daily ( except Christmas Day)
Where: Mount Dandenong Tourist Rd , Mt Dandenong
Cost: Free
Your Comment
Dates in this article need checking.
William Ricketts born in Richmond in 1893
Died in 1993 at age 94. Slight math problem here.

Children would love the sanctuary - have them search for sculptures of animals and children peeking out from among plants and paths. Teach them the story of W.R. and how he lived with aborigines, make it come alive for them. Don't over-protect them, encourage their curiosity and sense of discovery.
by eclec (score: 0|5) 1430 days ago
I find it a bit creepy that parents would wonder if it would suit children just because its atmosphere is a little not-Disney. How do kids learn to handle their own inner stuff if everything that's served up to them is light and fluffy?
by Sue Stevenson (score: 2|569) 1985 days ago
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