by Venessa Fay


It was a languid Sunday afternoon on Fitzroy’s Brunswick Street. The sun beat down, relentless. Drifting lazily from open windows above at Dangerzone Tattoo was the steady, familiar buzz of tattoo machines. However, what was going on in that lofty first floor studio on the 13th of December was anything but an ordinary day of tattooing.


For the second year running, tattoo artist Shell Valentine had organised the charity flash day “Tattoos for the Less Fortunate” – a day where customers were asked to bring gifts to be donated to the needy instead of paying the artist. For 2015, she was joined by fellow artists Leonie New, Rob Mopar and Peter Pav.


Upon entering the studio I was greeted by Valentine, sitting at the first work station in front of a pink kitsch display of nostalgia and Kewpie dolls. “I’m running half an hour behind and I haven’t factored in any breaks,” she said as she was laying out a stencil of a Simpsons style donut on a woman’s leg, “I’m working 9 ‘til 9.”


Strewn across any and all available shelving, and in a heaping pile in the centre of the room, were the donations of those being tattooed; mountains of colourful plastic toys, skateboards and cosmetics were piled in front of a BMX. Sixty-two fluffy monkeys peeked out from under a desk. The generosity was overwhelming.


Over $5,000 worth of donations were raised for local charity organisations Merri Outreach Support Service (M.O.S.S.), WISHIN and Launch Housing, amongst others.


Don’t forget about older people. Help out where you can, how you can. It’s one day of work for me to be able to make people happy with gifts.”


It was an important factor for Valentine when organising the event that adolescents and the elderly were not forgotten in the excitement of present buying. “There are teenagers and the elderly out there that don’t have anyone or don’t have much,” she said. This sentiment was also echoed by M.O.S.S. Operations Manager Katrina McAuley, “We find it really difficult to get gifts for kids over the age of ten; for anyone over the age of ten.”


McAuley commented that those who are socially isolated, without friendship or social groups, are usually the most negatively affected during the Christmas period: “We see a bit of a rise in people’s mental health being destabilised this time of year.” She added, “Some of the socially isolated clients don’t get much so sometimes the things that we bring them are the only gifts that they get.”


The reality is that the highest suicide rates in this country are men aged 85 years and older, followed by men aged between 40 and 44, with the highest rate of suicide for women also being in this 40 to 44 year age group. McAuley lamented, “We very rarely get stuff for that age group.” There are many factors to consider, but there is no doubt that loneliness and isolation would deliver an especially sharp blow to those alone at Christmas.


One thing we can be certain of is that the needy should not be forgotten, regardless of age. “Don’t forget about older people. Help out where you can, how you can. It’s one day of work for me to be able to make people happy with gifts,” Valentine pleaded, pausing to wipe away tears, “It’s the least I can do, but the most I can do with what I have.”


Even though Christmas is now over, the charities mentioned require your help all year round. For more information, contact Merri Oureach Support Service on 03 9482 3488, W.I.S.H.I.N. on 03 9479 0700, or Launch Housing on 03 9373 0123. Shell Valentine can be reached via her website www.tattoosmadewithlove.com or on Instagram @shell_valentine_tattoo.

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