When David from Newcastle turned 18, he and a few mates made a pact to all get Southern Cross tattoos.
“It was a way to show our patriotism to our country and love for our country I guess,” he said.
That was in 2004, just a year before the Cronulla riots when the star emblem began to be associated with the racially motivated violence of that day.
“It was much later on, up until two or three years ago, when I started having negative thoughts about it,” David said.
“To me it sort of like [symbolises] Australian rednecks now.”
Southern Cross tattoo cover up chest
When David’s at the beach or playing football, the large, dark stars stand out on his right shoulder.
Showing the symbol in public now makes him feel uncomfortable and there have been times when his family and friends sniggered at it.
“The feeling I get when I run out onto the footy field and I’ve got the Southern Cross tattoo sort of makes me feel a little embarrassed,” he said.
“I’m maybe thinking that people are judging me on just a tattoo.”
David went so far as getting a quote for covering up the image with another tattoo.
“For the size and the colour it was around $500 to $600,” he said.
“If I had the choice, it’s only really a money thing that’s stopping me from getting it covered up or removed.”
Southern Cross tattoo cover up neck
Covering up the stars
Abby Rose has been a tattooist for eight years, four of those from a parlour in Cronulla.
She said the popularity of people getting Southern Cross tattoos died out years ago.
“I think it has shifted now because no-one wants to get the Southern Cross anymore because there’s not great connotations with it.
“I probably do one a year and it’s on a tourist.”
Ms Rose is now seeing more requests from both men and women in their 30s and 40s to cover up the symbol.
People are now wanting other images to show a love for their country, she said.
“I found a lot of people have switched to getting tattoos like native flowers or native animals instead of getting an Australian flag or a Southern Cross.”
Resorting to laser removal
Southern Cross Tattoo laser removal
Andrew Chim has been running a laser tattoo removal business in central Sydney for eight years.
In the past two years he has seen an increase in requests from people to remove Southern Cross tattoos.
After speaking to clients he said many young people in their 20s acquired the tattoo when it was in fashion but were now moving into professions where it might be frowned upon.
“They just regret it because I guess it has a bad stigma,” Mr Chim said.
“They just want to move away from that image and sometimes they just want it removed because they’ve grown out of it.”
He estimated that in the past year his clinic had removed at least 20 Southern Cross tattoos, a procedure that could require a number of treatments if the tattoo was large.
“It represented something I think positive at some point, but all of a sudden it has changed and that’s why people are removing it.”