Owner Peter Davidson of Creative Tattoo Art in Lismore giving Glen Francis of Lismore a self-designed tattoo at his licensed premises.
Owner Peter Davidson of Creative Tattoo Art in Lismore giving Glen Francis of Lismore a self-designed tattoo at his licensed premises. Doug Eaton

Backyard tattoo taboo

UNLICENSED or "backyard" tattoo parlours are becoming increasingly common on the Northern Rivers, putting people at risk of serious diseases, Creative Tattoo Art owner Peter Davidson claimed.

Tattooists use needles to penetrate the skin.

Unsterilised equipment can spread blood-borne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C.

As backyard tattooists are not registered with the NSW Government, they do not have to adhere to health regulations which prevent diseases spreading, he said.

"Between here and Byron Bay there's about 20 back-yarders," said Mr Davidson, who has been tattooing in South Lismore for 22 years.

"They're everywhere because you can buy tattoo equipment on eBay.

"They're not governed by anything so they don't have to abide by government regulations."

The North Coast Public Health Unit says more people are choosing to get inked on the North Coast than ever before and warned against them doing so in unlicensed premises.

Mr Davidson said along with spreading diseases, many backyard tattooists used incorrect techniques which result in pain and poor quality tattoos.

"They could be hurting people without realising it," he said.

"They use bad equipment - the machines run hot, they butcher people with it, they scar people and, when you go too deep or scar someone, that's open to infection, too."

While tattoo parlours in NSW must pay an annual licensing fee and adhere to government standards, Mr Davidson claimed licensed parlours were targeted when tattoo-related disease outbreaks occurred in the region.

"The government comes and jumps on us because we're the only ones they've got addresses for," he said.

"Whoever works the health laws out has to take a look at them and find where they're going wrong and why they can't control it."

He claimed tighter regulation relating to the sale of tattoo equipment would help to stem the increase of backyard tattooing.



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