After my serious dose of nature in Sherbrooke Forest, and my communing with my first-ever lyre bird, I headed up the Tourist Road to Mt. Dandenong and the William Ricketts Sanctuary.
Potter and sculptor, William Ricketts, was born in Richmond in inner-city Melbourne, in 1898. A gentle man, he had a powerful vision of a modern Australia embracing Aboriginal spirituality and respect for the natural world. He made frequent trips to the Pitjantjatjara and Arrernte Aboriginal people of Central Australia and was adopted by the Pitjantjatjara nation.
In 1934, William bought a log cabin and had it relocated to his bush block at Mt. Dandenong, where he spent the rest of his life creating a sanctuary with his art.
Most of the 90 sculptures dotted throughout the forest depict aboriginal people engaging with the earth, though a few represent William’s anguish at the takeover of the land by the white man and the devastation of the natural environment.
The sculptures drew me along pathways in and out of the forest. Wherever I looked, another image rose from a tree trunk, from rocks, from behind ferns and, seemingly at times, straight from the earth. Many are children, presenting the idea of the unity of mankind in the first years of childhood, when children play together, unaware of any differences or racial divisions.
William’s aim with his sanctuary was to inspire visitors to understand the Aboriginal philosophy that “all living things everywhere are forever one with us”. It worked for me. The longer I wandered the dirt tracks, past the trees and ferns and around the sculptures, the easier it was the feel this. It’s a serene place. I floated home.
As I try to understand the deepest meaning of life, I have become inspired by a unique growth of love for the Australian Bush. Because of that powerful love, I have become an integral part of my environment: bird, animal, forest, mountain, desert, rock, water – everything, everywhere, at one time. I am linked indivisibly with all of them. In this way, I have come to know that separateness is the enemy of true religion – William Ricketts.
The Sanctuary is at Mt. Dandenong on the Mt. Dandenong Tourist Road. It’s open from 10am till 4.30pm every day except for Christmas Day.
There is no entry fee but a note in the donations box would help with the running of the sanctuary.