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Byron Shire
June 16, 2024

Has nudity on Byron’s beaches come to an end?

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Nude Olympics 2015. Photo supplied.
Nude Olympics 2015. This week’s event at Belongil will go ahead but Byron Shire Council is considering removing the beach’s clothing optional status. Photo supplied.

Naked banana farming on the hillsides around Mullumbimby wasn’t a novelty for just the hippies who were living their alternative reality, it was also quite a show for the other local banana farmers who started bringing their binoculars to work.

The nude came with the first wave of hippies as they picked up properties and tried to turn their hands to organic and biodynamic farming. While some succeeded, many decided that setting up a business or reforesting their property was perhaps a little easier. But the nude has become part of the culture of the area: from the 750 naked women who spelt out NO WAR in 2003 with their bodies, and the naked bike ride, to the Nude Ain’t Rude rallies – the first of which was hosted by Mandy Nolan.

‘I MC’d the first major one around here, it was held on the beach at Belongil and called Nude Ain’t Rude. It was a protest against the crackdown on people swimming nude along that stretch of beach. It was also a call for clothes optional as opposed to Nude beaches,’ said Mandy.

‘It was one of the most fun days I think I have ever been to. Five hundred nude people just having a great time.’

With the Nude Olympics said to be celebrating their inaugural Byron event on October 7 questions around the relationship between nudity, clothes-optional beaches and sexual assault have arisen.

Byron Shire Council declared a clothes-optional section of the beach from Tyagarah’s Grays Lane walking track for approximately 1.3kms towards Byron Bay in 1998. The area does not include the Tyagarah nature reserve that starts at the high tide mark, the toe of the dune, meaning that the clothes-optional area does not include the dunes or the tea-tree lakes.

The Grays Lane end of the clothes-optional area and the tea-tree lakes have had long running issues with sexual assault, harassment and public sex acts creating problems for local residents, with some saying that it is no longer a fun place to take the kids for a dip or to hang out as a single person just wanting to soak up the sun.

‘I have been very concerned lately about the deteriorating situation at Tyagarah,’ said councillor Paul Spooner.

‘There have been a number of sexual assaults. Local residents have been making ongoing complaints about the inappropriate sexual behaviours of visitors to the area. While I am not against clothes-optional bathing on our beaches it seems blatantly clear to me that the isolated location at Tyagarah has encouraged negative social behaviour and has made the location undesirable for most people to now use as a public beach.

‘After discussing the issue with local residents, National Parks and council staff I will be moving a motion to revoke council’s clothes-optional declaration for this section of the beach at the next meeting of council.’

Naked swimming happens regularly and quietly all over the shire and many locals avoid the clothes-optional area at Tyagarah because of its reputation.

‘I went for a swim yesterday morning at the beach and I would have counted about six other people swimming naked. It is just very common,’ said one local woman who doesn’t swim at Tyagarah.

‘I will walk up the beach and find a space to myself and I usually wait for a gap between walkers. I have no problem being naked and talking to friends but I’m mindful and respectful of myself and other beach users,’ she added.

While sexual violence against anyone must be treated to the full weight of the law, should the world be banned from enjoying a naked bum in the sun experience because clothes-optional beaches have been pushed into isolated locations?

‘I think there is definitely a direct relationship between isolated nude beaches and sexual assault,’ continued Mandy.

‘I have never supported the idea of segregated places to swim naked. I think it puts people at risk. I have always supported clothing optional beaches.

‘Clothing optional beaches are very misunderstood. It basically means you don’t have to wear swimmers at any beach you are at if you so choose and it’s left to the discretion of the swimmer. Most people would not swim naked on a public beach. It’s our morality around nudity and our censorial approach that is the problem. I would hope this would mean that there wasn’t a designated ‘nude’ area for perverts and sexual predators to target.

‘I am a supporter of fun nude event days on public beaches like the Nude Olympics because it demystifies nudity. Nudity, as shown in the naked bike ride, is really a lot funnier than it is sexual.’

The police are currently ensuring that they have a high presence in the designated clothes-optional area and surrounds. They are looking to provide safety for all beach users and enforcing the law. Penalities can range from a caution or fine through to an arrest that ends in a court appearance.

‘We are working with council and National Parks and Wildlife services to make the area safer for users,’ said Brendon Cullen, detective chief inspector and crime manager for the Tweed Byron local area command.

Two reported sexual assaults were reported a few months ago, one at Tyagarah and one at Belongil.

‘The safety of our residents should be the prime concern of Council,’ continued Cr Spooner.

‘By removing the clothes optional declaration it will send a strong signal to those utilising Tyagarah as a location for inappropriate sexual activities to move on. Everyone has a right to feel safe in public places and should not have to be confronted by intimidating or sexually aggressive behaviour.

‘Clearly clothes-optional beaches should not be in isolated areas. It is for the community to express their opinion. We need to look at successful clothes-optional areas elsewhere. Let’s make our beaches safe again.’



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  1. Why shouldn’t there be a designated ‘nude’ area for perverts to enjoy their fun if that’s what they want? We seem to be going through a new era of politically correct puritanism that doesn’t suit many people, particularly in this part of the state.

  2. just like the war on drugs chose the wrong target so too does this take the wrong approach. do something about the fucking perverts and leave those who want to go nude to themselves. police are there to enforce laws. Do it!

  3. This is one of the reasons that my partner and I visit the Byron shire – to be able to swim and sun bake in the nude. Has political correctness gone mad? I haven been to tea tree lake, but I believe it can be a lot of heterosexuals acting ‘inappropriately’ – so put a sign up that sexual behavior is not tolerated. By the way, us tourists spend a LOT of money in your area. A lot.

  4. Everyone has a right to be naked in nature! However as a resident of Tyagarah east, I have observed the clothing optional status of the local beach has attracted some truly lost and lonely individuals. Often being drawn to the area in search of voyeuristic intimacy, the passive aggressive or sometimes overtly intimidating behaviour is a sad indication of society more than PC puritanism.

    The residents themselves lobbied council to establish a clothing optional swimming area, but over time this has worked to isolate them from feeling free to swim in a safe environment. As incidents of inappropriate activity have increased, both reported but usually not, police have had no choice but to become involved.
    Residents and shire locals have felt helpless to know how to respond to such and are grateful that there is finally a united front.

    Sexual assault is never OK! Avoiding the confronting truth has allowed this environment to flourish. We are all responsible to protect and take action.

    • There are some flaws to your argument.
      Firstly, the beach also attracts a lot of ‘normal’ people who just happen to enjoy the beach in a naked state!
      Secondly, not all shire locals feel ‘helpless’ about the ‘situation’. Many enjoy the beach and want it to remain open for all, clothed or not clothed!
      Thirdly, yes I naturally agree , sexual assault is never ‘OK’. Be it Tyagarah, Byron main beach, East Ballina or any other beach where an sexual assault has happened!

  5. A good thing would be to have the beach closer to civilization so the people who want to engage in sex would have nowhere to hide, if they want to get together for pickups etc let them do it the privacy of their own homes and not out in public where everyone can see them.


  6. The problems at Tyagarah could be solved by all beaches being clothes optional. Concessions could be made to those poor folk who think they have bodies with dirty bits by having clothing compulsory beaches which could be more remote.

  7. The problems at Tyagarah can easily be solved by making all beaches clothing optional. For those who are convinced we have bodies with dirty bits we can have clothing compulsory beaches, preferably remote so as not to offend.

  8. A few points come to mind upon reading this story..
    Naturism and sexual assaults have nothing in common.
    What about all the sexual assaults on the ‘non clothing optional beaches”? We better close them also, just in case!!
    The community should be allowed to have at least one beach in the shire where they are legally allowed to enjoy the beach naked if they desire.
    For all the people who have never enjoyed the simple pleasures of bathing in the buff, I suggest you come down and experience the wonderful pleasure that it provides. Me, personally I have never felt threatened in ten years of enjoying the beach.
    We need to stop banning everything when a problem arises. If there is an issue, lets deal with it sensibly and not to the detriment of those who enjoy the beach respectfully.

  9. It is such a shame that too many equate nudity and sex whilst a true Naturist is as disgusted as anyone else about overt behaviour by us.

    It is inappropriate that clothing optional beaches are relegated to remote locations in most places in Australia.

    There are so many good lessons to be learnt from our friends in Britain and Europe. An excellent example of the nude beach which is part of the City beaches in Barcrlona.

  10. Unless all beaches are clothing optional then there is an issue, as if the only clothing optional beach is in an isolated location then it has become a gathering place for sexual suppressed and predatory behaviours. I am a long term local of East Tyagarah, I have not been able to enjoy my local beach with my children, it has not been appropriate to have them there.

    I love to swim naked however unfortunately I see it as necessary to remove the clothing optional status of Tyagarah Beach, as our Beach needs a clean up. The energy is seedy and although I appreciate the police presence in this clean up, I also feel it is not conducisive to a harmonious and relaxing environment.

    I support removing the clothing optional status of our beach

  11. As a long term femal resident of East Tyagarah i would like to thank Mandy and Paul Spooner for bringing this issue to the table. After reading the article and the responses of the article i feel i need to add my voice.
    Please people, beach goers, naturalist this is not so black and white, its not about the freedom of being nude or a moral issue, its simply an issue of a clothes optional beach in an isolated area. Most successful clothes optional beaches are close to towns. Originally the Rude aint Nude rally was for Belongil to be the chosen area as we females felt safe if anything went wrong there would be someone near by. At Tyagarah this is not the case. Clothes optional beaches attract perverts and or predatory mentality. Add an isolated beach and lone females will not feel safe!
    Apparently the area classified as ‘clothes optional’ starts 100 mt south from the Tyagarah Nature reserve car park to the Belongil creek. This does not include the car park, north of the car park or the Tyagarah Tea Tree lakes! It just goes to show you how an open minded council has been somewhat abused as this classified area has not been respected.
    I would love to see our Tyagarah beach brought back to us locals as a normal clothed beach and the tea tree lakes a place i can take my children and grand children again without the feeling that its a sexual destination that it is today.

  12. We travel annually to the shire, in part for its naturist opportunities, including as mentioned in the article, in the many quiet and beautiful unofficial locations. I would love to see clothing optional beaches made more mainstream by increasing their numbers and designating them closer to population centres (and not just limited to ocean beaches!). I’d rather not have to be so coy about swimming in a waterhole in one of the many creeks and rivers in the hinterland. If nothing else, designating more clothing optional localities closer to population centres would dilute the incidence of overt sexual behaviour.

    I also acknowledge that the world over, a proportion of people seek out opportunities engage in consensual intimacy outdoors. Always have, always will. In Copenhagen, provision has been made for this in a city park. It would be an atypically brave council that would designate such an area in Australia, but I think an officially recognised open sex locality, would clean up overt sexual behaviour at all other locations without requiring a heavy police presence. Alas, the NIMBY problem will prevent it.


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