By Oscar Redman and Melody Swift
Perverts! Sickos! The Tyagarah nude beach is being portrayed as a hotbed of deviance. Other voices need to be heard in this debate.
We are a local couple who spend a lot of time basking on this glorious stretch of sand and our overall experience has been safe and positive. For us, Tyagarah is a sanctuary for a carefree, simple and natural way of being. It is a place we can feel the pure joy having the elements – Earth (sand), Water (ocean), Fire (sun) and Air (wind) – in direct contact with our whole bodies. It is a sensuous but non-sexual experience; a way to be at one with nature without the barrier of a clingy, wet swim suit.
We usually keep to ourselves at Tyagarah but sometimes nudity is social at events sponsored by the Australian Naturist Federation. These occasions are invariably typified by conviviality, innocent fun, laughter, and making new friends.
Two weeks ago, for instance, we participated in the inaugural Byron Nude Olympics. A crowd of about 50 people – mainly couples as well as equal proportions of both single males and females – revelled in the egg and spoon race, sack race, three-legged race, relays, and other games with child-like abandon.
Our experience of the beach has been overwhelmingly upbeat but we acknowledge that undesirable behaviour occurs. In our direct experience, however, this is the exception and not the rule. Most beach-goers we have observed behave in a wholesome way and are respectful of others.
If some Councillors are concerned about anti-social behaviour then they need to work with the community to target the seedy minority and not ram through an arbitrary ban that penalises the innocent majority. The solution is not to prohibit nudity but to uphold the rule of law. Sexual harassment, lewd behaviour and nudity outside designated areas are crimes and perpetrators should be caught and prosecuted.
As a principle, our liberal society does not forbid an activity just because it can be abused by a small section of the population. We don’t ban driving because some speed and we don’t ban alcohol because some go too far. Similarly, we should not ban a nude beach because some misuse it.
Tyagarah Beach is a special place for us and countless others. There are at least seven compelling reasons to save it from a Council ban:
- A ban would unjustly punish the majority of responsible beach-users instead of a tiny, deviant minority.
- A ban would be a betrayal of sacrosanct Byron values like freedom, self-expression, tolerance, diversity and alternative living.
- Linking the nude beach with recent sexual assaults is a misrepresentation of the facts as these crimes were not committed in the designated nude area.
- There has been immediate and substantial opposition to the proposal with a protest petition gathering over 1000 signatures in less than a week.
- A ban would cancel future Byron Nude Olympics, which have just relocated from Noosa where they used to attract up to 600 people annually and were said inject $2 million into the local economy.
- A ban is a heavy-handed overreaction to the situation when more balanced solutions to enforce existing laws are readily available. Strategies include clear signage, random police patrols, and community empowerment.
- Council needs to explain in advance how they will enforce any ban on nudity. Signs and a police presence seem inevitable so let’s have them but without having to outlaw nudity.
The case for closing the nude beach is weak and any problems can be successfully addressed by other means. If there are ulterior motives for the ban, like pressure from land developers, then the Council should be open and honest about the situation so all of the facts are available to the community.
On Thursday we urge Councillors to vote down the motion to summarily ban nudity at Tyagarah without any community consultation or evidence-based discussion that could address anti-social behaviour while protecting the rights of legitimate users. We urge Councillors not to rob us of this precious place in a cavalier fashion.
Freedom-lovers of the region unite! We have nothing to lose but our textile chains!