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Tattoos and Piercings

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

When can I get one? In the Northern Territory, there’s no specific age you have to be to get a tattoo, piercing or body mark. If you are under 18, it will depend on whether you can 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 Northern Territory, there is no law which says how old you have to be to get a tattoo or body piercing. If you are under 18 it will depend on whether you are able to give valid consent. “Valid consent” always depends on whether the piercer or tattooist thinks you fully understand what is involved.  In deciding whether or not you understand they will need to consider:

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

In practice, many studios may still require you to get permission from your parents. It’s a good idea to get this permission in writing, and it must explain the type of tattoo or piercing, how big it is 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.

Having a tattoo, piercings and body modifications at school or work

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 some option 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.

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 NT 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 NT must also adhere to the infection control measures set out in the state-wide 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 22 September 2014.