If you long for some peace and tranquillity away from Melbourne’s frenetic pace, head straight for the Dandenong Ranges, just about an hour’s drive from the city. Tucked away in the mountains is the much-acclaimed William Ricketts Sanctuary, an unusual arbour of peace!
Out of the ordinary, this reclusive, woody getaway has so much to offer for art and nature lovers. Thickly hooded by pine trees, ferns and wild greenery, what stands out in the quaint vegetation are the 92-odd sculptures in the clay of Australia’s Aboriginal folks whose love for the Earth is reflected in each piece. The faces and figures depict the close bonding the Aboriginals had with Nature. They respected Mother Earth, worshipped and deified her. The credit of depicting the angst of a native race as seen in their facial expressions goes to Australian sculptor William Ricketts. This inlet of tranquillity was named after Ricketts as a mark of respect for his deep understanding of Aboriginal spirituality.
Born in 1898, Ricketts displayed a rare skill in clay modelling at a young age. By 1930, he bought up to four acres of land close to the Dandenong ranges and named it the Potters Sanctuary. By 1934, Ricketts started working on his clay sculptures which soon acquired wide acclaim. The Victorian government bought up this place and what lay close to it and converted the entire land area into a park for the public. Ricketts lived within the sanctuary till he breathed his last in 1993.
“We are symbols of spirituality. We are lucky and blessed in that we experience the presence of love through music and works of art, like sculpting. It’s through these forms that we learn the true essence of spirituality. Through them, we can reach out to the Infinite, God, the Maker. Man is Nature’s masterpiece. Therefore, it’s up to you to fulfil your duties to Nature and ask in return what’s rightfully due to you”. These profound words from Ricketts reflect the true nature of the man and his philosophy.
The William Ricketts Sanctuary lies 40 km away to the east from Melbourne. A drive from the city centre is the ideal way to get there where it’s open to all for free. A slow walk will take you to about half a kilometre of Ricketts’ sculptures.
The Alfred Nicholas Gardens and other stretches of Dandenong Ranges National Park can also be on your list of must-see places.