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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. Your parent must give written permission for you to get a tattoo. It has to explain the style of the tattoo and where on your body you will get it.

Piercings and other body marks (including branding, beading and scarring): there is no specific age you have to be to get a piercing. 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!



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

If you are under 18, you can get a tattoo if you have a 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

There’s no law which says how old you must be to get a body piercing in the Australian Capital Territory. However, if you are under 18, you must be able to give valid consent. This depends on whether the piercer thinks you fully understand what is involved. 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) 

In practice, many studios may require you to get parental permission before piercing you or making another body mark on you. 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, piercings and body modifications 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.     

If a tattoo, piercing or body modification is part of your cultural background, for example your race or ethnic heritage, then it may be unlawful discrimination for a school or workplace to ban you from having it. If you would like more information on this, check out our page on discrimination, or send us a Lawmail.

Things to think about before you get a tattoo, branding or piercing

  • Do you want it forever?  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.  Also, keep in mind that tattoos and piercings can be painful to get and that piercings can leave scars or holes even after you take the jewellery out. 
  • 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. Also, you should make sure that the tattoo studio is safe and hygienic and that all tools are sterilised. This means that you should avoid home tattoo or piercing parlours or DIY kits (even if your friend is the one doing it!).   All tattoo parlours in the ACT have to be registered, so it’s a good idea to make sure the place is registered before getting anything done. Tattoo parlours and piercing studios in the ACT must also follow infection control measures set by the government in special guidelines.

If you have any questions about getting a tattoo, piercing or other body modification, please send us a Lawmail


The content on this page was last updated on 20 February 2018.