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: if you’re under 16, you can only get a piercing if you have permission from your parents 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.
Getting permission: your parent can give permission in person or in writing. If it’s in writing, it has to explain the style of the mark and where on your body you will get it.
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 New South Wales you need to be 18 to get a tattoo.
If you are under 18, you’ll need your parent’s permission. It’s against the law for someone to tattoo you without your parent’s permission.
You need to be 16 to get a piercing in New South Wales.
If you’re under 16 and want a normal piercing (not in a private place), you’ll need your parent’s permission.
Your parents can't give permission for a piercing in a private place (your genitals or nipples). You have to wait until you're 16 to do this.
You need to be 18 to have any mark other than a tattoo or body piercing made on your skin. This includes things like branding, scarification or beading. If you’re under 18, you’ll need your parent’s permission.
A parent can give permission in person or in writing. If it’s in writing, your parent’s note must explain the type of tattoo/mark/piercing and where it’s going to be on your body.
Also, 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.
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. If this has happened to you, please send us a Lawmail for more information on your options. You may need to take action within 21 days of being dismissed, so don't delay - send us a Lawmail today!
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, send us a Lawmail.
- 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 jewelry – 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 NSW 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.
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 19 September 2014.