We live in a society swamped with images, where high value is placed on physical appearance and an association between attractiveness and youth, particularly for women. Flesh after Fifty will explore and challenge negative stereotypes of aging whilst celebrating and promoting positive images of older women through art.

Australian artists have a history of photographing, painting and sculpting the female form, mostly by and for men whose interest in exploring youth, vulnerability and beauty has dominated the images we recognise. The way in which artists portray older women often reflects public attitudes. Images of older women have changed over the last century as fashion, community, politics and society have changed. Much of the time, images of older women are absent altogether. Some artists, however, are able to rise above fashion and convention to externalise personal desires and aspirations that challenge preconceived perceptions and expectations.

Flesh after Fifty will bring to the fore images that need revisiting or have been overlooked from key Australian public collections. Re-interpreting images will be a focus for this exhibition, exploring untold stories that reveal the way in-which fashion, ageism and oppression of women has influenced which images/art have become popular and how that has affected the way in which women artists are represented in collections today. Contemporary and newly commissioned art made by Victorian artists will be included.

A variety of talks, forums, events and functions will be held to coincide with the exhibition in 2020.




Professor Martha Hickey
is a clinical psychologist and gynaecologist. She is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Melbourne, Director of Gynaecology Research Centre at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Head of Menopause Service at the Women’s and Visiting Professor at Harvard University.

Her research and clinical work are focused on healthy ageing in women, including both physical and emotional health. She conceived this project out of concern that the message to younger women about menopause ageing was almost exclusively negative and did not reflect the capability, diversity and achievements of older women.

She has extensive experience in designing, running and completing research projects with over 300 publications in women’s health. She has established collaborations the auspicing body (the Women‘s Foundation) and with Women’s Health Victoria. She is a powerful advocate of gender equality and a champion of older women.

Jane Scott
Program Manager and Senior Curator

Kirsty Grant
Assistant Curator

Dr Elvis Richardson
Website Manager


Martha Hickey
Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Melbourne and The Royal Women’s Hospital, Victoria, Australia

Karin Hammarberg
Jean Hailes Research Unit, School of Public Health and Preventive medicine, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

Rita Butera
Executive Director, Women’s Health Victoria

Amy Webster
Senior Policy and Health Promotion Officer, Women’s Health Victoria

Lynne Jordan
CEO Country Women’s Association

Jane Scott
Art Manager

Rose Hiscock
Director Science Museum

abbotsford convent creative victoria melbourne university womens hospital
photography exhibition womens
Renowned photographer Ponch Hawkes, will be creating 500 photographic portraits of women over the age of 50.

If you want to participate in a photoshoot please make a booking. The studio is nearby the North Melbourne Town Hall. *there are 20 stairs to the studio and portraits take 15 mins.

Participants are encouraged to compose their own presentation and determine how identifiable they wish to be, please bring along a prop or object to hold in front of your face if desired.

18 May +
19 May, 2019.
10am – 5.30pm

You can play an important role in changing attitudes towards older women. Your support will make a difference. All donations are acknowledged through the Women’s Foundation and are tax deductable.

We greatly rely on the financial support from generous supporters. Donations will enable us to deliver this ambitious and important program that will celebrate and explore issues around ageing women in Australia. If you believe in this project, support us! Any contribution whether big or small makes a difference.

All donors will be acknowledged in the catalogue and supporters board at the exhibition. Complimentary tickets to openings and events will be provided.

Supporters: $100-$500

Major Donors: $1000-$5000

Flesh after Fifty is auspiced by the Royal Women’s Hospital Foundation that is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (ACNC). We are a not for profit project auspiced by a charitable organisation and so endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR). The Royal Women's Hospital Foundation ABN is 38 161 165 026. If you live in Australia, donations over $2 are tax deductible and a receipt will be provided. Please enter "Flesh After Fifty" in the *message section on the link below.




Our population is ageing and women over 50 will soon be the largest group. Older women play a vital role in our families, workplaces and communities.

Almost 50% of the Australian workforce is female and most carers and voluntary workers are women. Maintaining the health and wellbeing of older women brings benefits to the whole community! However, gender inequality and age discrimination affect the health of older women in Australia and worldwide.

Flesh after Fifty tackles gender and age discrimination in a new and innovative way. It is now well established that engagement with the arts can benefit both physical and mental health. The "arts ripple effect" describes the extensive reach of health benefits across the community. The arts provide an outlet for recreation and relaxation, self-reflection and enjoyment. For people with mental illness, arts programs can improve confidence, self-esteem and hope for the future1. For older adults, engagement with art improves mood and promotes positive ageing2. Like regular physical activity, regular engagement with the arts enhances health and wellbeing, increases happiness and resilience, and improves quality of life3. Art engagement promotes health by building new relationships, reducing isolation and increasing social support3. Participation in community arts projects increases sense of belonging, tolerance, trust and respect1,3. Arts contribute to public health by giving people the opportunity to interact with others, form friendships and share in positive experiences. The arts have the potential to bridge our worlds, harness the wisdom of our different views, engage our imagination to explore new ways of thinking, and create experiences that can be shared by all people in our community. Most importantly, the arts shape cultural norms and attitudes related to gender and gender equality.

Achieving health equity for older women means challenging negative views about ageing and recognising the strength and beauty of older bodies. In our society, most images of women’s bodies are distorted and digitally transformed. Beauty is strongly equated with youth and images of older women’s bodies are largely absent. Flesh after Fifty aims to shifts the narrative of ageing away from concepts of “loss” to recognising the “gains” of older age, including experience, confidence and growth. The project uses artworks to give new meaning and relevance for older women in our community. Flesh after Fifty will provoke discussion and reflection about what it means to be an older woman and reaches out to younger women with a new and more positive message about ageing. The project brings the voices of older women, bringing unique insights about the negative impact of gender inequality on health and wellbeing to inform policy and guide younger women as they too become older women.

Martha Hickey, March 2019


  1. Wright P, Davies C, Haseman B, Down B, White M, Rankin S. Arts practice and disconnected youth in Australia: Impact and domains of change. Arts & health. 2013;5(3):190-203.
  2. Greaves CJ, Farbus L. Effects of creative and social activity on the health and well-being of socially isolated older people: outcomes from a multi-method observational study. The journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. 2006;126(3):134-142.
  3. Davies C, Pescud M, Anwar-McHenry J, Wright P. Arts, public health and the National Arts and Health Framework: a lexicon for health professionals. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2016;40(4):304-306.