Art and Nature at the William Ricketts Sanctuary, Melbourne.

William Ricketts Sanctuary

William Ricketts Sanctuary

As a child, long before I ever met an Indigenous Australian I would ask my parents if they could take us to the William Ricketts Sanctuary.  The sanctuary consists of a serene, ferny nature reserve 45 minutes drive from Melbourne in the Dandenong Ranges.  Among the eucalypts and ferns are displayed over 90 clay sculptures depicting Aboriginal Australians of all ages.  The sculptor, William Ricketts contributed to the park from 1934 until his death in 1993 (I remember seeing him as an old man on my childhood visits) and was inspired in his art by his relationship with central Australian Aboriginal people.

William Ricketts Sanctuary

William Ricketts Sanctuary

Ultimately it is the merging of nature and art that makes this such a unique place to visit and I was curious to observe how my own children would interact with the park.  My youngest quickly embraced the spirit of exploration.   My eldest, perhaps a little  jaded by holiday activity was unsure at first but eventually took pleasure in discovering each new sculpture around every corner.

This is an unusual attraction for families, but it is one that works.  Rather than wild play it evoked in myself as a child, and now by boys quieter interaction with nature.  Adult visitors will be provoked to reflect on issues regarding conservation and ethnicity.  The park also acts as a talking piece that introduces children, that may never have met an Indigenous Australian to concepts concerning the first Australians and their relationship to the land.

Bub 2 at William Ricketts Sanctuary.  This structure is to hold water for wallabies and lyre birds.

Bub 2 at William Ricketts Sanctuary. This structure is to hold water for wallabies and lyre birds.

A warning for parents – a couple of the sculptures display disturbing imagery.  One depicts a man with a gun and a pile of dead animals.  The other depicts the artist himself on a cross.  I would suggest that other parents don’t let these disturbing sculptures prevent them discovering the William Ricketts Sanctuary with their own children.  My own experience was that I was able to provide a brief explanation to my kids, and then move on to another more appropriate section of the park.  For their part, my children were not bothered by these sculptures and quickly forgot them.

Ricketts Sanctuary

The park is located at Mt Dandenong Tourist Rd, Mt Dandenong and opens from 10am until 4.30.  Admission is free.  The Dandenong Ranges can be cool so it is important to dress your children appropriately.

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Check out other traveller’s vacation photos at R We There Yet Mom’s Friday Daydreamin and Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday.


© Copyright 2013 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move

9 thoughts on “Art and Nature at the William Ricketts Sanctuary, Melbourne.

  1. I remember our visits here as kids so clearly Dan. How special that you’re now visiting as a parent with your own children.

  2. How wonderful that you got to meet the artist himself when he was alive. My daughter met Margaret Olley when she was alive, and that was a wonderful thing, as Cassie is an artist herself. The sculpture shown in your second photo grabbed me immediately. How beautiful.

  3. What a beautiful place to spend the day! Love the look of the statuary placed in nature – it’s not often that you get to walk through a wooded area and see art at the same time. What is most interesting is that the statues seem to really belong in their environment – brilliant work on the part of the artist!

    • It is interesting that it works so well, particuarly because the people depicted are from Central Australia, thousands of kilometers away from this site. I can’t think of any other art site like it.

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