Tattoos & Piercing

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

  • Tattoos and other body marks – branding, beading, scarring and tongue-splitting: if you’re under 18, you cannot get a tattoo or other body mark.
  • Piercings – if you’re under 18, you can 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 18 even if you have permission.
  • 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, piercings and other body marks

In the Northern Territory, there is no specific law which says how old you have to be to get a tattoo or body piercing. Once you are 18, you will be able to get a tattoo, body piercing or body mark without your parent’s permission.

All tattoo and piercing parlours must follow standards set by the government.  If you are under 18, these standards say that a parlour cannot give you a tattoo, a piercing on your genitals or nipples or a body mark even if you have your parent’s permission.  A body mark includes branding, scarring, beading and tongue-splitting.

For simple piercings such as ear piercings, many piercing studios may still require you to get permission from your parents, especially if you are under the age of 16. It’s a good idea to get this permission in writing, and it should explain the type of tattoo or piercing, how big it is and where it’s going to be on your body.

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 tattoos, 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.  You must follow these rules 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 question here.

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 of getting a blood-borne 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 the Northern Territory have to be registered and publicly display their licence, so it’s a good idea to make sure the place is registered before getting anything done. Tattoo parlours and piercing studios in the Northern Territory  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 contact us here.

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