There are a lot of things that affect the tattoo industry. New inks and machines, hygiene standards, and the ability to buy KITS online leading to increased backyarders, but nothing compares to the introduction of the NSW Tattoo Parlours Act of 2012. 


Released as of 30 May 2012, the Tattoo Parlours Act 2012 requires body art tattoo parlour operators and body art tattooists to obtain a licence from NSW Fair Trading.

While this is only in NSW at the moment, it has been reported that both Victoria and Queensland should ready themselves for a similar act.

Who can get a licence?

At this stage, the requirements for obtaining a licence are being developed. However, tattoo business operators and tattoo artists will need to comply with the following:

be at least 18 years of age

be a fit and proper person (a criminal record check will be conducted by NSW Police as part of the process)

be an Australian citizen or Australian resident

not be a controlled member of a declared organisation.

In addition, all licence applicants will have to agree to have their fingerprints and photograph taken.


Types of licences and authorisation conferred by licence

(1) The following kinds of licence may be granted and held under this Act:

    (a) an operator licence

    (b) a tattooist licence.

(2) An operator licence authorises the licensee to carry on a body art tattooing business (whether on his or her own behalf or on behalf of another person) at the premises specified in the licence in accordance with the Act and the conditions of the licence.

(3) A tattooist licence authorises the licensee to perform body art tattooing procedures in accordance with this Act and the conditions of the licence.

What we’re worried about…

What is a ‘fit and proper person’? It is possible that tattooists who have worked for over 20 years may find themselves unable to get a licence.

This could mean the end of travelling or guest spots with no provision in the Act for artists travelling from interstate or overseas. An artist must have a licence to work, but only citizens or residents can apply.

Will the need for a licence drive what was a lawful career underground, with some who can’t afford or don’t meet the requirements forced to work outside of studios in order to earn a living? This could cause some serious hygiene problems with a lack of sterilisation equipment accessible.

Why fingerprinted and photographed? Very few industries in Australia are required to have photos along with finger and palm prints taken. Most who require this are security or gaming related.

“Any fingerprints or palm prints obtained from an applicant in accordance with this section who is granted a licence may be used by the Commissioner for any purpose that the Commissioner sees fit. (13, 3)”

This will be ongoing for artists who cannot renew the licence, but who must reapply the licence every three years.

“A licence remains in force for a period of three years from the day on which it comes into force, unless sooner surrendered or cancelled or it otherwise ceases to be in force. (17,2)”

“A licence cannot be renewed, but an application for a new licence may be made in accordance with this Act. (17, 4)”

The biggest issue for us:

Most tattoo artist legislation and regulation around the world involves being tested for knowledge of sanitary and safe tool handling, including blood-borne pathogens and basic CPR and first aid. The reason for regulation in these countries is the health and safety of us, the customers. The NSW legislation does not take this into consideration.

Statement by Richard Sedin, organiser of the Australian Tattoo & Body Art Expos
While I’m not a tattoo artist, I have a very strong relationship with the community and speak with artist everyday. Understandably, this affects me professionally and personally and I have done extensive research and made many calls to understand the possible effects these laws will have on the industry.

Due to the event I organise, I’ve been following the development of NSW Tattoo Parlours Act from its beginning. I’ve had a lot of artists ask me about this Act and what it means for them.

First of all let’s talk about the actual licensing process.

A tattoo artist needs to submit an application to the Commissioner for Fair Trading, Department of Finance and Services or, as the Act says, if no such position exists, to the Director-General of the Department of Finance and Services.

Let’s just think about this, The Department of Finance and Services is a service provider, regulator and central agency of government.

It is responsible for supporting sustainable government finances, major public works and maintenance programs, government procurement, information and communications technology, corporate and shared services, consumer protection, workplace relations, administration of State taxation and revenue collection, NSW land and property administration services and metropolitan water policy. Now this person will investigate, make security determinations about the tattoo artist, and will inspect the financial records of every tattoo artist in NSW.

And the purpose of this investigation is to assess the tattoo artist as to whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to be granted the license, and whether it would be contrary to the public interest for the license to be granted.

Now, I don’t see what a tattoo artist’s financial records will do to help this licensing person figure out the two items listed above.

Also, to be eligible for a NSW tattooing license, you must be an Australian citizen or resident. Again, I don’t see how that affects whether a person is fit and proper and whether it is in the public’s best interests if they were able to work.

The person responsible for issuing a license to a tattoo artist may have regard to any criminal intelligence report or other criminal information held in relation to the applicant or licensee (or a close associate of the applicant or licensee). I guess I can kinda understand the need to check a person’s criminal record, but an associate of the tattoo artist? What deems an associate? By the Act definition, it is a person who:

(a) Holds or will hold any relevant financial interest, or is or will be entitled to exercise any relevant power, in the business of the applicant or licensee that is or will be carried on under the authority of the licence, and by virtue of that interest or power is or will be able (in the opinion of the Commissioner) to exercise a significant influence over or with respect to the management or operation of that business, or

(b) Holds or will hold any relevant position, whether in the person’s own right or on behalf of any other person, in the business of the applicant or licensee that is or will be carried on under the authority of the licence.

Who’s to say you or your associate didn’t have a night at the pub and someone started an argument and you slogged them, but they reported you and you now have a assault charge on your record. It could be difficult for you to get a tattooing licence.

I’ve only just started speaking about the licensing process here; the Act goes into a lot of broad detail giving a lot of decision-making power to the Department of Finance and Service.

But there has been no consultation with any body or person in the tattooing community in regards to what affect these various regulation and laws will have on the community.

Now if we are being 100% honest, we know that this was a direct knee jerk reaction to the whole Outlaw motorcycle issue the government is dealing with, but what exactly did tattoo artists do to put into the pile with this Government issue?

So again what is the purpose of this act? Licensing tattoo artists doesn’t fix an Outlaw Motorcycle Group problem, does it? How can it?

Let’s be conservative and let’s say 50% of NSW tattoo artists are going to find it hard to get a licence to tattoo. What are they going to do? It’s a trade they’ve known, for some over 20 years. What job are they going to do to pay for living in this expensive state? They aren’t going to be able to find jobs or start training in a new job. They’re going to take their tattooing and go underground, which is fair enough – what would you do if your livelihood was taken away by the government?

This Act was written and passed so quickly, without any involvement of groups that have a vested interest in this community. Its incomplete, there are too many ambiguous rulings and poorly thought out procedures, and I for one have really had my eyes opened into the workings of NSW government.


Statement from NSW Government Fair Trade sent to Inked Australia & NZ regarding Tattoo Parlour Act 2012:
The Tattoo Parlours Act 2012 commenced on 29 May 2012 and established a new regulatory scheme for owners, operators and tattooists.

NSW Fair Trading will regulate a new licensing regime expected to commence in late 2012.

Individuals who operate or intend to operate a body art tattooing business, as well as those who intend to perform body art tattooing procedures, will need to obtain a licence issued by NSW Fair Trading.

Individuals performing cosmetic tattooing procedures are exempted from licensing requirements.

All licence applicants will be required to consent to having their finger and palm prints taken by a police officer in order to confirm their identity.

Information will also be required from individuals applying for operator licences as well as their close associates and employees.

They will also be required to provide details of all employees including those not engaged in tattooing and they will need to notify Fair Trading of any changes in those details and/or those of their close associates.

If an operator runs their tattooing business from more than one premise, they must apply for a separate licence for each premise.

NSW Fair Trading must forward all applications and supporting information to the Commissioner of Police for an investigation and determination of whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a licence or whether it would be contrary to the public interest for the licence to be granted.

If the Commissioner of Police issues an adverse security determination the licence will not be granted.

Individuals operating businesses or performing body art tattooing procedures without a licence will be in breach of the Act and may be subject to heavy penalties.

The following penalties will apply. One penalty unit is $110.


Maximum penalty:

(a) in the case of a corporation — 100 penalty units and in addition, in the case of a continuing offence, 100 penalty units for each day the offence continues, and

(b) in any other case — 50 penalty units and in addition, in the case of a continuing offence, 50 penalty units for each day the offence continues.


Maximum penalty:

(a) for a first offence, 50 penalty units, and

(b) for a second or subsequent offence, 100 penalty units.

Applicants who are refused the grant of a licence may make an application to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal to have the decision reviewed.

The Commissioner for Police may make an adverse security determination at any stage during the life of the licence. If this occurs the Commissioner for Fair Trading must cancel the licence.

Licences will be valid for a period of three years from the date of collection and are not able to be renewed. However, applicants are able to apply for a new licence.

The Act also requires businesses to keep specific records in relation to their business and make these available to authorised officers upon request.

Information in relation to the licensing scheme is available on the Fair Trading website: .

Members of the public may also register their details so they can be kept informed of any information in relation to the licensing scheme.

Enquiries should be directed to NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20.