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Tattoos and Piercings

When can I get a tattoo, piercing or other body modification?

Tattoos: if you’re under 18, you can only get a tattoo if you have permission from your parents.  

Piercings and other body marks (including branding, beading and scarring): there is no specific age you have to be to get these done. If you are under 18 it will depend on whether you are able to give valid consent.  

At school and work: your school or workplace may have specific rules or policies about tattoos, piercings and body marks, so it’s a good idea to check these first.

Watch out for infections!  Remember to protect yourself from diseases by going to a registered parlour with someone who is trained and hygienic!

Tattoos

In the Australian Capital Territory you need to be 18 to get a tattoo.

If you are under 18, you’ll need your parent’s written permission. Your parent’s note must explain the type of tattoo and where it’s going to be on your body.   It’s against the law for someone to tattoo you without your parent’s permission.

 

Body piercings and scarification, branding and beading

In the ACT, there’s no law which says how old you have to be to get a body piercing. However, if you are under 18, you have to be able to give "valid consent". This depends on whether the piercer thinks you fully understand what is involved.  In deciding whether you have shown "valid consent", the piercer will need to consider:

  • your age and maturity
  • the type of piercings and where you want them
  • whether you understand the long term impact of the piercing, what it involves, and things that might go wrong (like health and recovery after the piercing, side effects from infections or other complications)

If you're under 18, in practice, many studios may require you to get permission from your parents before giving you a tattoo, piercing or other mark on your body. Even if you do get permission from a parent, some tattooists and body piercers will not give you a tattoo or a piercing if you’re under 18, and others may ask you to show proof of your age, or even sign a statutory declaration (a legal document).   You may want to call the tattooist or parlour you are thinking of using and ask what their specific policy is.


Having a tattoo, piercing or other body modification at school or work

Your school or workplace may have specific rules or policies about tattoos, piercings and body marks, so it’s a good idea to check these first.  These rules are legal as long as they are not unreasonable or discriminatory.     

Workers in Australia are protected by unfair dismissal laws. If you are dismissed only because you have a tattoo or piercing and this has never been discussed with you or addressed in your employment contract then this may be considered unfair dismissal.  You may need to take some option within 21 days of being dismissed, so don't delay.


If a tattoo, piercing or body modification is part of your cultural background, for example your race, descent or ethnic heritage, then it may be unlawful discrimination for a school or workplace to ban you from having it.

Before you get a tattoo, branding or piercing..

  • Think ahead - remember, tattoos and other markings are permanent.  It is important to think about whether you want a tattoo or other mark for the rest of your life.
  • Ouch - piercings can leave scars or holes long after you stop wearing the jewellery – Ouch
  • Staying safe - when you get a tattoo or piercing, there is always a risk that you can get a disease like Hepatitis C or B, HIV or a bacterial infection. To prevent this, it’s a good idea to always go to a professional tattoo artist and make sure that the tattoo studio is safe and hygienic and that all tools are sterilised. Don't get a 'backyard' or 'tattoo party' tattoo - the risk is just too great!   All tattoo parlours in ACT have to be registered and publicly display their licence, so it’s a good idea to make sure the place has one before getting anything done. Tattoo parlours and piercing studios in ACT must also follow infection control measures set by the government in special guidelines.


This page was last updated on 19 September 2014.