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3.2.1 Body piercing, tattooing and branding

Last Modified: 16-Jun-2022 Review Date: 01-Oct-2016

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Legislation

Overview

Section 103 and 104A of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act) prohibits body piercing, tattooing and branding a child who is under 16 years or without appropriate consent. 

Intimate body piercing (genitals, anal area, perineum and nipples) is prohibited for children under 18 years of age, irrespective of parental consent under s.104A(2) of the Act. For further information refer to the section 'Referrals requiring a specific response' in Chapter 2.2 Conducting a Child Safety Investigation.

For further information about body piercing, tattooing and branding and legislation, refer to the Department of Health website Skin Penetration Procedures and the Law page. 

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department).

Rules
  • All reports of tattooing, branding and non-intimate body piercing of a child in the CEO's care without the required approval, must be Intaked to make inquiries about the child outside of the Department, the parent or the referrer (s.31 of the Act).

Information and Instructions

  • Considerations for approval
  • Approval
  • Post-approval
  • Non-approval
  • Guidelines for assessing and responding to concerns
  • Considerations for approval

    Generally, submissions for tattooing and branding for a child in the CEO’s care will not be approved because of they are permanent. Removing them later in life is difficult and can result in scarring. Requests for tattooing and branding will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

    Contact the Environmental Health Officer of the local council to confirm that the body piercer or tattoo artist (and the person who is piercing ears when this is being considered) are registered with the council and there are no current concerns regarding the business complying with the Health (Skin Penetration Procedure) Regulations 1998.

    There are many health risks associated with body piercing, tattooing and branding. Blood borne infections may occur if it is not performed in a safe and sterile manner. For further information about blood borne infections refer to the Department of Health website: Body Art.  

    For further information, refer to:

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    Approval

    To seek approval for body piercing for a child in the CEO's care, provide a written submission to the assistant district director (ADD).  Place the written consent on the child's Objective file.

    Exception:  Ear piercing for a young person 16 years of age and older does not require written consent under s.104A(5).  

    To seek approval for tattooing or branding for a child in the CEO's care, provide a written submission to the relevant Regional Executive Director (RED) or Executive Director (ED). Place the written consent on the child's Objective file.  

    The written submission addresses the following:

    • The age of the child (consider whether it can wait until the child is 18 years of age).

    • The type of body piercing, tattoo or branding requested.

    • The location of the body piercing, tattoo or branding.

    • The views of the:

      • child, if Gillick competent (see Gillick Principle in related resources)
      • parents (if applicable), and
      • carers (if applicable).

    • A Responsible Person such as the carer or child protection worker must attend the appointment with the child. Refer to the section 'Responsible Person - role and responsibility' in Chapter 3.2 Consent for police interviews for children in the CEO's care for more information on this role.  

    • The expected healing period, aftercare and management e.g. who will ensure the aftercare is followed up, noting that healing can take weeks or months depending on where and what is being done).

    • The child's current health status as the risk is higher and the healing time can be longer for a child who is sick or under the influence of any substances.

    • The child's medical history e.g. any infectious skin or a communicable disease.

    • Any identified risk of infection, other skin conditions, allergies, especially metal or chemical.

    • Whether the body piercer/tattoo artist is registered with the local council, and whether there are current concerns regarding the business complying with the Health (Skin Penetration Procedure) Regulations 1998. 


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    Post-approval

    After approving the written submission:

    • the ADD completes the Written Consent Form for body piercing of a child in the CEO's care under 18 years of age (in related resources), or

    • you draft the letter of consent for a tattoo or branding for the relevant RED or ED to sign.

    As businesses have a responsibility to check the validity of the consent, add your contact details on the consent form.

    Record all relevant approvals on the Child History File on Assist.

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    Non-approval

    ​If approval is not given, discuss the reasons with the child or young person in the CEO's care, and their parent's and carer (where appropriate), and record the details of these discussion on the child's file.  

    If a child in the CEO's care obtains a piercing, tattooing or branding without necessary consent, you must initiate and conduct an assessment. 

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    Guidelines for assessing and responding to concerns

    When a report or concern is received, the primary consideration is the child's medical needs. 

    Support to the child includes provision of information about appropriate aftercare, medical treatment and counselling, where required. 

    Intimate body piercing of a child

    Piercing a child's intimate areas (genitals, anal area, perineum and nipples) is illegal and you must refer this to childFIRST in all cases. In a small number of cases, there may be a sexual element to the activity that is exploitative and/or inappropriate to the child's age and developmental level.

    Where a report has been made to the Mandatory Reporting Service, you must liaise with childFIRST in the assessment and investigation processes. 

    Where the child is in the CEO's care, complete the assessment and all related Assist work. If the child is not in the CEO's care, the assessment is conducted by the Statewide Referral and Response Service (SRRS).  Send the referral to SRRS Central Intake Team: 1800 273 889 or email CPDUTY@cpfs.wa.gov.au.       

    Non-intimate body piercing, tattooing and branding of a child in the CEO's care

    A child or young person in the CEO's care must have written approval from: 

    • the assistant district director for non-intimate body piercing 
    • the relevant Regional Executive Director or Executive Director for a tattoo or branding.  

    In general, requests for body piercing, tattooing or branding will not be approved because they are permanent procedures.  The only exception to this is for ear piercing for a young person 6 years or older, as legislation does not require written consent.

    Under s.103(1) of the Act it is prohibited for any child under 16 years of age to have a tattoo or branding.

    Consent will not be provided for any child in the CEO's care under 16 years of age to get a tattoo or brand. 

    Non-intimate body piercing, tattooing and branding of a child who is not in the CEO's care

    Children aged 16 to 18 years of age must have written parental consent to have a tattoo or brand placed on any part of their body under s.103(2) of the Act.  Written parental consent must include:

    • a description of the type of tattoo or brand consented to, and
    • a description of where it is to be placed on the child's body.

    It is prohibited for a child under 16 years of age to get a tattoo or brand where they do not have consent from a parent. Send referrals and concerns about a child who has received a tattoo, brand or piercing (not earlobe) to the SRRS, who will conduct the assessment. Referrals to SRRS should be sent to the Central Intake Team: 1800 273 889 or email cpduty@cpfs.wa.gov.au 

    Western Australia Police

    Where there is sufficient identifying information provided in the reported concern, you must refer the concern to the Western Australia Police (WA Police).

    If a parent or carer requests information regarding how they can pursue a possible prosecution themselves, you should:

    • recommend that they report the incident to WA Police, and
    • suggest that they seek legal advice.

    Single agency response by the Department

    Where there is not sufficient identifying information, or WA Police have determined that the matter does not warrant further investigation, the Department may undertake a single-agency response. The assessment will focus on the safety of the child and the parent's capacity to protect the child from future harm.

    The purpose of the assessment is to determine whether the written consent of the parent was obtained before a child obtained a non-intimate body piercing, tattoo or branding.  Consider the following factors when undertaking the assessment:

    • The child's age.

    • Type and location of body piercing, tattoo or branding.

    • Current and future impact of the body piercing, tattoo or branding on the child's wellbeing.

    • The body piercer or tattooist's awareness of the law.

    • The body piercer or tattooist's diligence to ascertain the authenticity of the written consent obtained of the parent of the child. 

    • The evidence of proof of age provided.

    If the concern involves a child in the CEO's care, consider any relevant case plan issues and the views (if relevant) of:
    • the child's case manager

    • the parents, and 

    • the carers.

    Requesting relevant information from the local government

    All skin penetration establishments (tattoo, branding, piercing artists and businesses) are required to notify the local government where they intend to operate in and comply with the Health (Skin Penetration Procedures) Regulations 1998 and Code of Practice for Skin Penetration procedures. The Regulations and procedures outline minimum standards of infection control such as basic hygiene, disinfection and sterilisation requirements.

    When you receive any concerns, you should contact the Environmental Health Officer in the local government area that the establishment is located in to ascertain the following and exchange other relevant information:

    • if the establishment is registered

    • if there have been any previous concerns, and 

    • whether the current concern warrants involvement by the local government.

    The Environmental Health Officer has the power to inspect the establishment and enforce the Skin Penetration Regulations.  In circumstances where the concerns warrant involvement by the local government, you should consider undertaking a joint assessment.

    For more information on the potential risks of skin penetration by refer to Department of Health - Skin penetration and the law.

    Recording

    Refer to Chapter 2.2 Processing referrals and interactions for more information on how to complete the Interaction and/or complete an Intake. 

    Where contact details for the child are not known, but  the details of the tattoo artist or piercer are known, an Interaction should be completed with an outcome of 'No further action' recorded. 

    The contact details for the tattoo artist and/or piercer should be recorded. Provide these contact details to WA Police as part of a formal referral. 

    Following an intake all case notes and referrals should be saved on the child's electronic case file.

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