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Out Of The Shadows - Professional Tattooists Unite To Save Their Industry

Updated on February 4, 2016

Professional Tattooists Unite

Five years on from the introduction of a regime that saw no industry consultation taken prior to its implementation, the tattoo industry in NSW is now heading quickly towards ruin, with both the integrity and sustainability of this small, but once thriving industry now being heavily damaged.

Requirements for entry to industry, as set out by the licensing regime, have a sole focus on identifying individuals through an application process requiring finger/ palm prints and extensive police criminal history checks. This process neglects however to ensure that those who are entering industry have any pre existing level of knowledge in order to practice the art of tattooing.

Due to the tattoo industry having had an historical connection to Organised Motorcycle Clubs, Governments nationally are directing legislation towards the industry in an agenda to curtail this percived problem. The art form having now been labeled by government, as having a reputation that is synonymous with criminality. This perception has ultimately lead to both the NSW and QLD government's introducing Bills to curtail this percived problem.

Where once an OMC presence may have deterred amateurs from operating openly, the licensing regime actively encourages it, and said amateurs now flood the market. Huge public health risks have been created, with not even a basic qualification of cross contamination being required to obtain entry to industry.

These state based regime's also restricts the entry of other professional tattooists, both nationally and from overseas with requirements for permits to visit being plagued by red tape. Along with the mandatory identification requirements which must be completed within the licensed state prior to the application being logged, lengthy waiting times of up to 2 years before the issuing of licenses or permits to visit, have been documented.

The important practice within the tattoo community of artists visiting both interstate and o.s, facilitates the conferencing and sharing of knowledge, which in an industry with no current accreditation available, remains the most important element of internal growth as well as promoting the high level of practice professional tattooists pride themselves on.

An array of other problems continue to plague the industry since the introduction of these schemes, from the fast decline of available Insurance policies for businesses right through to the increase in the sales of untested and unregulated tattoo supplies being bought by the public and amature licensed tattooists who are not recognised by professional supply companies. Alarmingly, non accredited online tattoo schools are now also appearing, offering quasi courses for large fee's to the unsuspecting public and in reality doing nothing more than promoting backyard operators.

These restrictive provisions and the ongoing process of corrosion to the industry as a direct consequence of the regimes in use has left professional tattooists with a sense of desperation.

In response to the implementation of the Tattoo Parlour Bill 2012 a small group of professional tattooists founded the Australian Tattooists Guild. The ATG launched nationally in 2014 with the aim of uniting and supporting professional tattooists, whilst also providing through the Guild’s structure a professional set of standards for members to uphold. The response from the professional tattooing community was overwhelming and saw the organisation quickly become a force to be reckoned with.

An immediate response to the formation of this industry appropriate body was also seen from large numbers of professionals, academics and independent organisations.

Since its formation the group has continued to develop dialogue with government in its endeavours to ensure both its members and the interests of the broader industry are represented. It is now percived that through the work of the ATG, any further regulation and legislation of tattooing in this country will be in the best interest of both industry and the general public alike.

The QLD government are now reviewing the bulk of legislation that was passed by the previous government in 2013. Whilst mainstream media to a large degree continue to defend the VLAD ACT very little attention has been given to the Queensland Organised Crime Commission of inquiry report that was presented to the Premier in October last year.

Within this report a damning exposay of the huge waste of resources that has been used by government and its related agencies to pursue the agenda of arresting organised crime in its identified form is presented. Professional Tattooists continue to be frustrated at the lack of attention given to the ongoing issues and the evidence supporting them by the media.

Ongoing frustrations are also being experienced at the lack of any real engagement from within the NSW government to address the ongoing issues. Recent amendment regulation has further damaged the industry by requiring overseas guest artists to receive an invitation from Convention organisers in order to visit NSW for a period of up to 30 days. Vast power is now given to the convention owners to decide who will visit, with only 1 international tattoo convention currently being hosted in NSW per year. Convention organisers are not tattooists and have no knowledge of the culture, practices or existing relationships within the professional industry. In an attempt to influence this bizarre move by the Minister of DFT the ATG have launched an online petition in the hope that public opinion may influence this.

The NSW Bill is to be reviewed next year. The professional industry remain hopeful that positive changes will be made to the existing regime before the culture around this amazing art form is destroyed. The ATG are now working towards the development of a framework for Self Regulation, it is hoped that within this model the many complexities that exist within the industry will be addressed and a structure that both protects and sustains the industry into the future will be put in place.

Video Of ATG Member Geordie Cole


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