The recent public hearing which was attended in Sydney saw positive feed back from members of the Senate Committee.
Major issues, as were highlighted in the ATG Submission to the inquiry were discussed. The Senate committee asked questions re the current landscape of the profession as well as the structure of the regulation in QLD/NSW. A consensus was reached on the point that State Governments have the ability to achieve policy objectives of the licensing Act's without having to place such an excessive burden on the profession.
Further input from Members of the Senate Inquiry, post the hearing has been sought. The advice given is that we continue to raise the profile of the profession through positive media as well as to remain current within our campaign and to actively contribute in any future discussions/inquires etc which may be relevant to our profession.
The opening statement, as was read to the Senate Committee at the beginning of our verbal presentation at the hearing in Sydney is below:
To the Senate:
As the committee are aware the ATG have submitted an intensive submission to this inquiry. Before providing testimony to the points raised within our submission we would like to present a short dialogue regarding the current landscape of our art form.
Perceptions of tattooing have changed dramatically since the 1960’s. Wearing tattoos was once regarded as a deviant activity, characteristic of marginalised and sanctioned groups. However, today permanent body decoration is becoming common among individuals who fail to fit traditional stereotypes. Coinciding with this trend is the emergence of a postmodern society in which near constant communication and immersion in multifarious social groups has eroded the capacity for many to develop stable conceptions of self. Much of the population would now say tattooing constitutes a legitimate form of self expression.
The art of tattooing has endured a long and varied history in the context of Western Culture. Those who wear tattoos have experienced long periods of social stigmatisation tempered by bursts of acceptance. Recent times have brought with them a change in the collective attitudes toward tattooing. Between the 1960’s and 1980’s alone the number of tattoo studios in Australia increased from an estimated 300 to over 2000, and it is now estimated by researchers that 1 in 5 Australians has at least one tattoo. Clearly the role of tattooing in Western society has shifted through the decades.
Tattooing is now branching out of the sub culture and into the main stream. As a small group of artisans who work extremely hard to produce images to clients specifications whilst upholding a high level of practice, we also are witnessing a period of transition in which previous social conceptions of who professional tattooists are continue to be transformed.
Tattoo artists, though varied in our methodologies and perspectives toward the art form nonetheless identify ourselves as members of a legitimate profession, collectively sharing and conferencing our knowledge to advance both the art form and contribute to the culture of our times both locally and internationally.
The introduction of NSW and QLD State Governments licensing regimes - which maintain a policy directive on organised crime - came as a shock to our community. A shock which has left many legitimate professionals and small business owners questioning why the attitudes and awareness of those entrusted to make decisions around the safety of both the public and our profession have not progressed and evolved when the art form and those within the professional industry truly have done so.
The collection of finger and palm prints, full criminal history checks, the use of secret criminal intelligence, fit and proper tests, the use of drug and explosives detection dogs, enforcement provisions, entry without warrant, restrictions on out of State artists, record keeping obligations, fines, fees to operate, fees to renew, fees to hold an event, fees for permits and waiting periods on applications of up to 5 years.
This is the sort of legislation typically employed for use in counter terrorism and is far beyond the sort of regulation necessary for licensing legitimate professional artists, for a license which has no apparent value to those within our profession.
Beyond the damage to small business and restrictions on trade a new problem has now emerged; one created directly by the regimes in question. One that many within the profession perceive has created a far more dangerous and alarming problem than the ongoing existence of a small number of rouge operators within the industry who participate in organised crime.
What governments did not consider, and did not know due to a gross lack of industry consultation during the drafting of either Bill, was that the profession had been self regulated for the last 20years.
Within this model of self regulation the profession and the general public were protected from backyard amateur operators due to their inability to gain any form of legitimacy within the trade.
The licensing regimes have undermined the existing structure of the profession and through the licensing of amateurs has created a public health risk which is now being borne out through the evidence of medical practitioners, professional industry participants and the clients themselves.
Regulators are bound by the limitations of the legislation, unable to prevent amateurs from gaining licensure due to a lack of appropriate pathways which evidence professional practice for entry.
Our industry and those within our profession acknowledge we have work to do. It is not the Governments role to develop a structure for professionals within our industry and those who would pursue an occupation as a tattoo artist. We are unified and clear in the undertaking that we do not want to see the technical aspects of tattooing taught as an accredited unit in main stream institutions, nor do we endorse privately run tattoo schools. Tattooing is an art form, which must be taught within the realms of an organic relationship between master and student. If a structure is to be developed it must be spearheaded by industry, this conversation and many others concerning the changing landscape are now evolving within the profession.
If the integrity of our profession is to be preserved, both Government and industry must work together to ensure that the unique qualities of the Australian Tattoo industry are maintained as a genuine folk art form with a distinct history and culture worth preserving.
It is our hope that through presenting this information to the Committee today, an awareness and understanding of the issues being experienced can be considered and that Governments both State and Federal will engage in dialogue with our profession to ensure positive change into the future.
note - cheers to all those who personally txt,rang or pm'd me prior to the hearing with messages of support, I really appreciated it!