Tattoos and Piercings
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 (January 2018), however may change without notice.
Tattoos and The Law
Can someone get in trouble for giving me a tattoo when I’m underage?
Yes. It’s illegal for anyone to give someone under 18 years old a tattoo. This law applies to tattoo artists as well as everyone else. This means that someone can get in trouble for tattooing someone who is underage by using a DIY kit or any other tool, even if the young person wants to get the tattoo.
It’s also against the law for someone to tattoo another person who is intoxicated (whether by alcohol or drugs, or a combination). If they didn’t know that the person was intoxicated, this may be a defence. If you’ve been given a tattoo while you were intoxicated, you can make a complaint against the person who gave you the tattoo. Call the free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424 for legal advice.
The law depends on what kind of piercing you want and how old you are.
What’s the law if I’m under 16 years old?
If you are 16 years or older you can only get a piercing if you have permission from your parents (in person or in writing).
If the piercing is in an intimate area (your nipples, genitals, anal region, perineum, or uvula) then no one is legally allowed to do this to you until you are 18 years old, even if you want them to.
What’s the law if I’m 16 or 17 years old?
Once you turn 16 years old there is no law to stop you getting piercings without your parent’s 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 before anyone is allowed to do this to you, even if you want them to.
What’s the law if I’m 18 years or older?
If you’re 18 years old you can decide whether you want to get any kind of piercing. It’s up to you.
Did you know…
It’s illegal to lie about your age, use fake evidence, or lie about having your guardian’s permission in order to get a tattoo, piercing or body modification when you’re underage. It’s also illegal to help someone else do this.
If you are under 18, it’s illegal for someone to perform a body modification on you like earlobe stretching, scarring or tongue splitting. 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 you will be breaking the law.
Giving your agreement
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 old or older.
Having a tattoo, piercings and body modifications at school or work
Can I be fired or expelled just for having a tattoo or piercing?
Your school or workplace may have specific rules or policies about tattoos, piercings and body marks, so you might want to check these before you get anything done. Keep in mind though that these rules could be against the law if they are unreasonable or discriminatory. For example, if a tattoo, piercing or body modification is part of your culture 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 Help Line on 1300 366 424.
Importantly, workers in Australia are protected by unfair dismissal laws. This means that if you are fired 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 against the law. If this has happened to you, please seek legal advice as soon as possible – call our free Legal Help Line on 1300 366 424.
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.