Photo Essay

Artistic Wonderland

In the Ferny Glade, Dandenong Ranges

In the Dandenong Ranges, in the eastern suburbs of the Victorian capital, Melbourne, in the cool wet forests surrounding the village named Mount Dandenong, is the crowning glory of one of Australia's least known but most interesting artists, William Ricketts. Although never formally trained as a potter or sculptor, William Ricketts built a wonderland of his own sculptural works through which he communicates a deep reverence for the Australian landscape and its Indigenous people and their unique spirituality.

Born in Richmond, Victoria, in 1898, Ricketts settled permanently at Mount Dandenong in 1934, and began the work that would be his greatest legacy – William Ricketts' Sanctuary – the same year. Ricketts' deep affinity with the Aboriginal people and his attitudes about conservation were out of step with society at the time, which was deeply divided along racial lines and had an underlying push towards progress and 'taming' the great south land. His understanding of Aboriginal society, spirituality and cosmology was not based merely on reading and stereotypes – Ricketts made frequent trips to the Pitjantjatjarra nation in Central Australia between 1949 and 1960 and this informed his work. In 1970, Ricketts went to India, where he spent two years at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, an influence that is evident in some of his works.

Today, the Sanctuary is owned and operated by Parks Victoria, and is open to visitors for a small fee. Although Ricketts passed away in 1993, his dream and vision are still evident in his creations, and represent one man's attempts to find a place as a white colonial male with the ancient traditions of a rich and vibrant culture in a mysterious and utterly foreign environment.

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6 responses

  • Saroj Swain

    Saroj Swain gave props (1 Jul 2012):

    Fabulous shots ....thabks for narration.. vote

  • Roberto Ambrosini

    Roberto Ambrosini gave props (1 Jul 2012):


  • kil roy metters

    kil roy metters gave props (3 Jul 2012):

    informative and illustrated beautifully

  • Bailey Cooper

    Bailey Cooper said (9 Jul 2012):

    I love to read you. You are a gifted photographer and writer. You give us the uncomparable beauty of your homeland time and time again... always new... always breathtaking... always powerful. This is worthy of publication. This certainly deserves a nod from our community and jpg.

  • Sarah Springer

    Sarah Springer (Deleted) gave props (10 Jul 2012):

    Absolutlely a most excellent vote!

  • jackie b

    jackie b gave props (24 Jul 2012):


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