Tattoos in the Australian military

Ink in the Lines

Ink in the Lines

Tattoos are a conversation starter.

Many members and veterans of the Australian Defence Forces have tattoos, and while their reasons for getting tattooed are as varied as the people themselves, self-expression and belonging play a part.

They also share a common purpose in getting inked: to remember.

Inscribed on skin are their identities as veterans, the commemoration of loss, experiences of trauma and overcoming adversity, the bonds of family and friends, and acknowledging the experiences that make us who we are.

Learn more about the history of tattoos within the Australian Defence Forces. Podcasts, videos and articles.

Touring Exhibition
Venues and Dates
Ink in the Lines touring exhibition booklet
tat 2

Elaine’s tattoos start conversations, express her positive life decisions, and give a sense of protection and strength.

Memorial Tattoo Project

Throughout 2019, The Memorial documented the stories of servicemen and servicewomen through oral history interviews and portrait photography.
Many of the images and stories collected now form the Ink in the Lines exhibition.

Click on these portraits to read some of the stories.

Your Ink

Tattoo of boots
Photo of a back displaying a tattoo
Tattoo of a soldier

Behind the Lines of Ink

Video series

Tattoos have the ability to embody profound experiences of loss or transformation, and memorialise lost friends.
This series of short videos explores the personal meanings written in the ink worn by our veterans.


Australia's military tattoos


Listen to episode four of our Collected podcast and learn about the history and meaning of tattoos in the Australian Defence Force. In conversation with curator Stephanie Boyle, tattoo artist Peter and through oral histories, Louise Maher shares the ways servicemen and women, their loved ones and veterans have inked their skin in commemoration, pride - or just to pass the time.


Ink In The Lines Education Resource

Classroom Resource

This education resource is designed for Secondary and senior Secondary students. It can be used to support school visits to the exhibition Ink in the lines, but is also suitable as a stand-alone resource.

Learn more

"Navy made my sense of who I am..  It was the building blocks of who I am."   - Stephen 


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