Sexual intimidation, assault and rape are totally unacceptable on beaches or anywhere else. Being naked doesn’t lead to sexual perversion. However, the isolated location and lack of proper safety measures has led to residents, council members and other members of the community to question the decision to create a clothes-optional beach in 1998 from Grays Lane in Tyagarah for 1.3km towards Byron Bay.
Creating a safe clothes-optional beach is the responsibility not only of Byron Shire Council, the police and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) but also the community.
In response to Wayne Pendobny’s comment on Echonetdaily that ‘banning a perfectly natural pastime is not the Byron way’ Byron Councillor Paul Spooner has said that he doesn’t ‘think keeping your head in the sand and ignoring sexual assault on our public beaches is a very ‘Byron way”’ either.
The reality is that both comments are equally valid. Byron Shire can not afford to stick it’s head in the sand, but neither should it be forced to let go of a fine tradition of nudity and its clothes-optional beach that many locals have fought long and hard for over the years.
The big question for Byron Shire councillors at the upcoming council meeting on the 26 October – that will see Councillor Paul Spooners notice of motion (NoM) to remove the clothes-optional bathing area at Tyagarah debated – is, what is the best way forward to meet all the needs of the Byron Shire community.
Four years ago the council committed to placing clear signs identifying the clothes-optional bathing area and community consultation that has’t happened, said Wayne who runs the Save Kings Beach and Belongil/Tyagarah Nature Reserve Facebook page.
There is strong support both locally and more broadly for clothes-optional beaches in the Byron Shire with the recent change.org petition ‘Retain Tyagarah clothing-optional beach’ having gathered over 800 signatures.
‘Without any support from council, and despite years of council inaction, naturist beach goers are starting to come together with ideas of how we can make our beach safer,’ he continued.
Debbra Conomy from the local Beach Safe committee also highlighted that the police want clear signage to delineate the clothes-optional area as well as people to report any inappropriate activities.
‘Many people haven’t reported incidents in the past as they were concerned that it might lead to loosing the clothes-optional beach,’ she said.
‘The Beach Safe committee have met with the police who’ve highlight the importance of reporting any incidents to the police.
‘Call 000 and report it.’
Confusion has been and continues to be expressed by both locals and visitors about where the clothes optional area of the beach is.
‘We have indicated a willingness to go naked only within the defined boundaries,’ continued Wayne.
‘If council and the NPWS can simply agree to put up some signage to show where they are.’
Both the Wayne and Debbra have come up with a range of community solutions that they believe could help. Both have suggested having a roster of people who are willing to create a safe zone, identified with flags, for people who wish to enjoy the beach in their natural state. Wayne has also suggested the idea of a ‘blow the whistle on sexual assault’ campaign to empower beach users to counter unwanted sexual advances.
The Safe Beach committee are also looking at other solutions including beach patrols and leaflet campaigns while other suggestions include creating regular family friendly events and taking a photo or film footage of offensive behaviour and reporting it to the police.
Suggestions that the clothes optional beaches be moved closer to Byron Bay such as north of the Wreck or south of the Byron Lighthouse have also been put forward. However, Debbie from Safe Beaches said ‘I truly don’t want to see it moved. That would be counter-productive’ the community needs to deal with the problems that they already have there and create an example of how to provide safe clothes-optional beaches.
If you interested in finding out more contact the Naturist Friends of Belongil Beach Byron Bay or the Save Kings Beach and Belongil/Tyagarah Nature Reserve Facebook pages.