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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 parent or guardian. Your parent or guardian must give permission in writing or in person for you to get a tattoo and it has to explain the style of the tattoo and where on your body you will get it. 

Piercings: if you’re under 16, you can only get a piercing if you have permission from your parents with details about where the piercing will be BUT if you want a piercing in a private place (like your genitals or nipples), you have to wait till you’re 16 even if you have permission.  

Other body marks - branding, beading and scarring: if you’re under 18, you can do this if you have permission from your parents.  

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 New South Wales you generally need to be 18 to get a tattoo. A tattoo includes anything that results in a permanent mark being made on your skin, including branding, scarification or beading.

If you want to get a tattoo before you turn 18, you’ll need your parent’s permission in writing or in person.  If you get your parent’s permission in writing, the note must explain the type of tattoo you want to get, the size of the 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

You need to be 16 to get most piercings in New South Wales. If you’re under 16 and want a piercing that is not in a private place (eg. your genitals or nipples), you’ll need your parent’s permission in writing or in person. Your parent’s note must explain the location of the piercing, and the type of piercing. If it’s a piercing on your genitals or nipples, you have to wait until you’re 16.You can’t get this done even with your parent’s permission when you are under 16.

Tattoo and piercing policies

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) outlining your age, and that you understand the risks involved in the procedure.  As a result, it is a good idea to call the tattoo / piercing parlour you are thinking of going to and asking them what their policy is on giving tattoos or piercings to someone your age who has a parent's consent.

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, descent 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

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 and piercer. 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 NSW have to be registered and publicly display their licence, so it is a good idea to make sure the place is registered before getting anything done. Tattoo parlours and piercing studios in NSW 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.