Australian Military Stories Told Through Tattoos Exhibition

City of Newcastle

Stories of service life and sacrifice inked on the skin of current and former Australian military personnel have been made into a powerful photographic exhibition now on display at Newcastle Museum.

Curated by the Australian War Memorial, Ink in the Lines features the stories and tattoos of 22 veterans from across Australia. The 76 photographic portraits are the result of an Australian War Memorial photographic commission conducted in 2018.


Audio interviews played on screens within the exhibition help capture the raw emotion of each participant as they explain why they chose to commemorate and honour their service, or the service of loved ones, through the medium of tattooing.

Australian War Memorial senior curator Stephanie Boyle says she is thrilled to bring the touring exhibition to Newcastle and hopes it resonates with local audiences with the region's strong military heritage.

"Behind every tattoo is a story. Ink in the Lines does what no other exhibition in Australia has done – it shares stories of Australia's military veterans through their tattoos," Ms Boyle said.

"Personal stories are the cornerstone of the exhibition. Every veteran who participated in the commission volunteered to share their experiences and motivation for getting inked. Some stories are painful, others inspiring, all are deeply personal.

"Through powerful images and stories, the exhibition provides an engaging and interactive platform for the examination and understanding of contemporary tattooing in today's Defence Forces, set within the context of the broader history of tattooing in Australian military forces."

Newcastle Councillor Carol Duncan said the exhibition evoked powerful emotions and provides a unique insight into the lived experience of Australia's service personnel and their families.

"One can't help but walk away from this exhibition with a renewed respect for what it's like to be a veteran, and the personal toll it takes to serve Australia in the military," Cr Duncan said.

"This is a very special exhibition to have here in Newcastle especially with upcoming Anzac Day commemorations. I encourage all Novocastrians to view this powerful free exhibition at the Museum."

City of Newcastle Director of Museum, Archive, Libraries and Learning, Julie Baird, said touring exhibitions played an important role in Newcastle Museum's programming.

"Ink in the Lines demonstrates the Museum's commitment to providing quality exhibitions that appeal to a wide range of audiences and provide insight into a diverse range of subjects that help us understand our history and identity," Ms Baird said.

"Tattoo art is an incredibly popular form of self-expression and creativity, which often has deeply personal and meaningful motivation. We're honoured to be able to explore the stories behind these tattoos in this incredible exhibition, which is sure to attract visitors interested in the tattoos themselves as well as those with a more personal connection to the armed forces."

Ink in the Lines is on exhibition until Sunday 4 June 2023. Newcastle Museum opens from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday and seven days during the school holidays. Visit the Newcastle Museum website

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