By Kyra Gillespie
The Wolves Den tattoo parlour in Pakenham is no ordinary tattoo shop.
At the entrance of the store is a large sign that reads: “We’re not your average tattoo studio. We are our brother’s keeper and invest profits to fight: Human trafficking in SE Asia and the prevention of suicide and domestic violence locally. Join the pack.”
Business owner and founder Josh Davis explains why The Wolves Den is active in the fight against social justice issues.
He said he had witnesses domestic violence.
“I know how much of a problem it is in the Casey and Cardinia area.
“I feel that I have a moral responsibility to bring awareness to these issues.”
Josh’s vision of The Wolves Den emerged with charity at the centre of the business, with the ultimate goal of donating 50 per cent of proceeds towards domestic violence and human trafficking.
“We want to be clear first and foremost that domestic violence is not OK, but that it is OK for men to have issues and seek help. We want to open up the conversation.”
Josh spoke of re-framing family violence not as something that happens behind closed doors but as something that needs to be bought into public view and discourse.
“I’m just doing what everyone should be doing.”
Despite being a very new business, The Wolves Den’s mission has already had a wide impact on people.
“A man who was released from prison on domestic violence charges teared up when he saw the sign.
“We have a lot of people who give us hugs when they see it, too.
“We often have people ask if they can come and hang out for a bit because it’s a place where they feel safe.
“I’ll never forget one message we received which said: ‘The days I spend in the shop are the days that the depression doesn’t feel so heavy’.”
But the concept didn’t come out of nowhere – it took two years of strategic planning before a store location was even considered.
Josh wanted to make the shop feel as safe and as inclusive as possible for women, who are so often excluded from the male-dominated world of tattooing.
“My wife hasn’t got any ink, so she was our ‘mystery shopper’. We went around to about 20 different tattoo parlours around Melbourne with a criteria of what did and did not make a tattoo shop feel safe.
“At most of the parlours we visited she was often ignored or sworn at when she went in with a design, and was rarely taken seriously. Overall I think there was only one or two that met the criteria.”
Included in the criteria were things like visibility, such as being able to see in and out. The design of The Wolves Den is created around all of these elements, with an open plan, open blinds and sunlight, and optional privacy blinds if needed.
“Lots of our customers are women because they feel safe. We want to promote women in the industry – both as clients and artists.”
The Wolves Den is also heavily involved in The Scars Project; an initiative started by Brisbane tattoo artist Whitney Develle donating free tattoos to cover self-harm scars.
“After speaking with the team here at The Wolves Den, we decided to join the movement by offering free tattoos to cover self-harm scars for survivors.”
“We want all people to know they are worthy and that their past doesn’t have to define their future” said Josh.
After sharing about the Scars Project on social media, the post went viral.
“We had over 400 emails in the first week, it was crazy.
“Some of the stories people sent bought us to tears, others were quite funny. One woman had self-harm scars from her youth, and when her son would ask about it she would say that she had been attacked by a tiger.
“We did a tiger-themed cover up for her, but now her kid has a phobia of the zoo.”
Josh also has big ideas of how to interact with local youth in a positive way and hopes to shift the stigma around tattoos as a symbol of trouble and rebellion.
“We want to change people’s assumptions about tattoo artists and the sort of things that a tattoo shop stands for.
“I see so many kids walking around the streets at night looking for something to do, and since we’re already open until fairly late, I’m hoping to be able to start up some night drawing classes with the artists for the local kids.
“It would be a good way to get them off the street and doing something productive.”
The Wolves Den only opened five months ago on Australia Day and is yet to start donating to specific charities while it is still setting up.
But by raising awareness to these issues, and igniting change through conversation, The Wolves Den is already well ahead of the pack.