Tattoos, Piercings, and Body Modifications
Disclaimer: The material in this factsheet is a general guide only. It is not legal advice. For legal advice about your own particular situation we encourage you to call the Free Legal Helpline on 1300 366 424. The legal information was correct at the time of publishing (April 2016), however may change without notice.
The Legal Services Commission gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the National Children’s and Youth Legal Centre in allowing the Legal Services Commission of South Australia to use and adapt existing content.
In this section you will find information on:
- Body Modification Procedures
- Having a tattoo, piercings and body modifications at school or work
Tattoos and branding, beading and scarring
If you are under 18, you can’t get a tattoo or get a branding, beading or scarring. It is illegal for anyone to do this to you, even if you want them to.
If you are under 16, you can only get a piercing if you have permission from your parents (in person or in writing). If you are getting written permission, your parent’s note must explain the type of body piercing and where it is going to be on your body. For written permission, you will also have to complete a statutory declaration (a formal legal document saying that you are telling the truth).
Also, even if you do get permission from a parent, some body piercers will not give you a piercing if you are under 18, and others may ask you to show proof of your age.
Once you turn 16 there is no law to stop you getting piercings without your parents’ permission as long as the piercing isn’t in an intimate area (your nipples, genitals, anal region, perineum, or uvula).
If you want a piercing in an intimate area, you have to wait until you are 18.
If you are under 18, you can’t get a body modification like earlobe stretching or tongue splitting done. It is illegal for anyone to do this to you, even if you want them to. If you perform a body modification procedure on someone aged under 18 years old you will be breaking the law.
Giving your agreement
Also in South Australia, no matter how old you are, you must enter into a written agreement with the person who is giving you a tattoo, piercing or other body mark. The agreement must contain information about the nature of the procedure, and the manner in which it is to be carried out. It must also contain information about how to care for the area of your body where you get the procedure done. The only time you don’t have to enter into a written agreement is if you want an earlobe piercing and you are 16 years or older.
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 is a good idea to check these first.
These rules are not against the law unless they are 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 seek legal advice as soon as possible – call our free legal helpline on 1300 366 424.
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 this has happened to you seek legal advice as soon as possible – call our free legal helpline on 1300 366 424.