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Byron Shire
May 6, 2021

$1,000 for a skinny dip: ‘I guess we’ll just have to cop it’

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Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve. Photo NPWS

The Brunswick Heads tradition of a quick skinny dip appears to be on the way out after a second pair in their 60s in a fortnight have been slapped with $1,000 in fines.

Jane McLean told Echonetdaily that she and her male partner walked to a deserted stretch of beach for a quick dip in the nuddie on Monday, January 8, as they often do.

But soon after they emerged from the water a police 4WD vehicle drove up and officers issued them each with a penalty notice for ‘offensive behaviour’ at the maximum fine of $500.

Police now conduct daily patrols of the strip of beach between Elements Resort and Brunswick Heads following complaints about sexual harassment of women on the beach. The area set aside for nude bathing by Byron Shire Council has also been reduced to an 800-metre strip commencing 200 metres south of the Grays Lane car park and 500 metres north of Elements’ beach access.

See also: Is it time for another Nude Ain’t Rude rally?

No warnings, no signage

Asked whether police should be issuing warnings rather than infringements for first-time offences, Tweed-Byron inspector Luke Arthurs told Echonetdaily ‘now signage is up, people bathing naked elsewhere will be infringed’ [sic].

But Ms McLean disputes that there is signage warning that nude bathing is not allowed south of Brunswick Heads or informing of any penalties, saying the only sign she could find in the town that precluded nudity was at Torakina.

She said that she and her partner would pay the fines ‘because you’ve got to have a lot of money to challenge something like this in court’ but joked that their only offence was ‘exposing our sixty-year-old bodies’.

Ms McLean says she has been bathing naked on isolated beaches ‘since I was taken to one by my aunty when I was four years old’.

She and her partner have been living at Brunswick Heads for four years and have been bathing naked regularly undisturbed on quiet sections of beach all of that time.

‘It’s a local thing to go walking along a quiet stretch of beach, take your clothes of, go for a swim and come back,’ she said.

‘Before [the incident] I’ve never seen police drive past. I had no idea it was illegal to be honest or that it was considered offensive behaviour.’

‘If I had money I would [challenge the fine] because it needs to be done – it needs to be clarified.

‘So far I haven’t met anybody who said “I’m glad they arrested you because that’s disgraceful behaviour”. Most people say “really, I do that too – thanks for letting me know”.

‘It’s common everywhere for people who love nature, isn’t it?’

Ms McLean said she thought the issue was ‘a grey area for police’.

‘There’s a swim in Manly on one of its most populated beaches every year where 1,000 people run naked into the water in an absolute public part of the beach.

‘The same thing happens in Hobart – and even V Day on Main Beach in Byron Bay.

Police out of step

‘We live in different times now; the policing is out of step with the sensibility of the majority of the community – and no one I’ve spoken to knows if it’s OK to be topless.

‘They’re driving along the beach trying to get sexual predators but they pick on these two people who happen to be emerging from the water, who obviously would be the last people [to be in that group],’ Ms McLean said.

 


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38 COMMENTS

  1. more shame on the green councelors

    Do something about those Rangers !

    Have them go after the perverts and not pervert the decent ratepayers for a change.

    Shame shame shame

  2. This is getting reduclious
    Run a petition
    Find nudists that will support and legal assistance .
    As it prevents all from their beach activities
    Maybe some Perce where you park your cars is robbing you in
    I cannot see what’s wrong with nude bathing in this area

  3. In response to this, I am really concerned that genuine naturists have been caught up in what was believed to be ‘we are not after the nudists/naturists, it’s the lewd, inappropriate behaviour we are trying to rid of’.
    This Zero Tolerance for those that truly may well have been unaware that regulations were now in place such as the overdue signage for Tyagarah/Belongil Beach. For many years now both Council and NPWS, had denied responsibility for, add to that, our now designated clothing optional area at last council meeting was reduced from 1,100 metres to 800 metres of legal nude bathing.
    I have been on Tyagarah Beach many times as a representative of Byron Naturists and Safe Beaches, yes clearly within the allocated clothing optional area, have witnessed hundreds of genuine nudists/naturists, couples and families now returning to our beaches, ensuring a new generation of naturists to our beaches. Isn’t this why it was declared many years ago as a place to be at one with nature.
    Byron has always had that peaceful vibe: a place many feel they can come to to relax and chill out, a chosen tourist destination the world over, also because of our clothing optional beaches.
    I understand that police are acting within the law on this and putting in a remarkable time-consuming effort in keeping our beaches safe and antisocial-behaviour free, though I cannot understand why those that are clearly doing nothing but skinny dipping cannot be cautioned as was originally believed.
    D Conomy
    Byron Naturists

  4. What is wrong with our pollies and police that they see a need to patrol deserted beaches in the hope of issuing a fine to justify the police presence on deserted beaches. Are we any safer? Safe from what or whom exactly? Well done NSW Police…NOT!

  5. This is absolutely ridiculous. The police should retract the fines immediately. For god’s sake these are peaceful senior citizens, who are hurting no one. They are clearly not sexual predators (who I agree should be fined or banned from skinny dipping if found guilty!) Who is making up these stupid rules? Who says that wearing clothing or having a quick skinny dip is something to be governed by the state – and moreover, punishable by law?? I am not a nudist but seeing people do this always makes me smile and admire their sense of freedom and confidence with their bodies. It’s a lovely thing – part of being a human being. Why are we more repressed now than we were in the 1970s? With all this new technology and “progress”, we are clearly going straight backwards as a society! Off to the Middle Ages! Maybe we should spend $122M on another plebiscite to see if the general public agree that skinny dipping should be banned in Australia!?!

  6. You don’t necessarily need to have a lawyer to appear on these sort of charges. A reasonable magistrate could hear your story and forgive the charge based on a lack of signage and corresponding lack of a warning from the police who issued the fine. Maybe worth $1000 to seek sensible judgement?

  7. Ridiculous. Why not fine people for being as good as nude in bikini’s made of a piece of string between their buttocks? this country is becoming a joke.

  8. hey police…u got nothing better to do than fine people nude bathing on deserted beaches… and $1000!!!! it’s a disgrace!…go and do something usefull!!… You are supposed to be serving and protecting the people….i have got no respect for this kind of police behaviour.

  9. Am also disgusted at this heavy handed treatment of people going out of their way for peace and privacy to swim as they wish. If they stripped off in front of a populated beach perhaps it would be warranted. Not so in this case.

    As a naturist by default since my parents joined clubs in the UK when I was 4yrs old, and knowing of so many locations around the world with much more liberal attitudes to this issue, when is Australia, with so many kilometres of wide open beaches going to give genuine naturists a fair go?

    If the police have got to drive for miles up the beach to nab them, what harm are they doing? Ridiculous!

  10. If the police has nothing else to do, all crims, hoons and other misbehaved jerks must have miraculously left the shire!

  11. Fining people for swimming naked on a quiet beach is daylight robbery! I wouldn’t call that offensive behaviour. If people are hanging free at the beach or local lake let them be. That’s their personal choice, they are not hurting anyone for goodness sake. If you don’t like looking then look away people!

  12. My wholehearted thanks to our police and rangers who so far are doing a great job on behalf of our community. Perhaps the Echo is not aware of the extent of predatorial sexual behaviour that had developed around Tyagarah Beach over many years. If not, then please, you need to get informed. Congratulations to our council who have returned the beach to the local residents and their families. They have created a safe and healthy swimming environment again for residents. We are all hoping it will hold.

    • The point is they are not targeting the sexual predators, but regular people enjoying a swim in the nude away from people. This is exactly what is wrong with this country, the nanny state throwing the baby out with the bath water – “lets make it a blanket rule and fine people ridiculous amounts without looking at the actual situation and targeting the individuals who are actually doing the damage!” There is plenty of sexual predatory behaviour going on by people with clothes on – are they being targeted too? you cannot generalise like this and take away peoples liberties because of a a few dickheads, this is becoming a police state actually, unbelievable!

    • Richard you are sadly missing the point here.
      Safe Beaches Committee consisting of Council, Police, NPWS and Local Naturist Community both Byron Bay and Nationally are all participated in ensuring our Beaches are now a safe place to visit for all.
      Where is the Sense in those who are simply enjoying a skinny dip are treated so harshly.
      Lets be rid the perpertrators of those that are in fact causing indecent acts, sexual harassment and inappropriate social behaviour, not not those simply enjoying being nude not lewd.

  13. Once upon a time, 1000 people would turn up every morning naked, and ask the thought police to arrest them. (Well, maybe 50). Is the old Byron spirit still alive?

  14. We’re going backwards into history, back to a puritanical time. Our cops have been turned into Cromwellian roundheads, punishing wrongdoers because a handful of moralists have decreed that nudity is disgusting and out of touch with ‘their’ community standards. Where will it all end?

  15. The sexual harassment of women on the beach is most likely because council dedicated a small isolated area as a nude beach rather than declaring most of the areas outside the the main swimming areas as clothing optional. Rather than making the area smaller why not extend it from Brunswick to Belongil and call it all a cloths optional area. And these two elderly couple clearly were not responsible for any harassment, so why police are you harassing people swimming naked? This concept of the naked body being offensive is so last century. 20 years ago I challenged my fine in the district court. You do not need to have a lot of money to challenge something like this in courts just passion. A solicitor or someone will probably come to your aid pro bono or do it your self and ask the police if they were really offended or they were just following orders to intimidate the locals. In fact Id be happy to represent you in court. It would be fun to put these unbalance police officers on the stand. I recommend challenging it. Don’t accept this harassment and intimidation by the police, in fact your could counter charge the cops with harassment. 

    Police please evolve from the witch hunts from the dark ages and get over your selves and do what we pay you to do and that is deal with real criminals. If the Tweed-Byron inspector Luke Arthurs and his subordinates who support this level of harassment of the local population have an unhealthy relationship with their naked body or those of others I suggest you seek therapy.

  16. This is pure bull!!!
    We were at Belongil Beach, near Elements Resort, skinny dipping on Saturday, along with other swimmers peacefully doing the same, as we have for the last 15 years. We were lucky not to get fined.

    Some points to consider:
    1. Does skinny dipping constitute ‘offensive behaviour’?
    2. Is there relevant sinage at beaches where locals have been skinny dipping for years?
    3. Is this the best way to tackle the issue of perverts on the beach?

    Or is this yet another example of Police State Oz?

  17. Don’t criticise the Police. They are carrying out the law. I, for one, don’t like to see naked people on the beach but there should be places for naturists to freely swim. Make suitable beaches available for clothing optional swimmers and make sure signage is present and obvious.

  18. Preditorial sexual behavior is one thing. Swimming naked in a deserted area, is certainly not a crime!!
    Don’t the police have anything serious to do? Simply ridiculous and such a waste of public resources

  19. I cannot believe that people who have been wrongly accused etc wont defend themselves in Court,

    I’msure legal aid or a probono legal person would do a defence for this couple,

    In fact they may even save the thousand dollar fine,

    Same for the Nortec business cubicle evictions no one appealed to the Rent Tribunal and refuse to leave the premises.

    Stand up against these little fascists, dont bow to them!!!

  20. Simple to defend.
    Offensive behaviour requires someone to be offended.
    I can hear the magistrate ask who was offended.

    What would the police say.

    We were patroling a deserted beach because people have historically skinny dipped there.

    Any magistrate would dismiss it in a heartbeat.

    Time for another rally?

  21. Oh this is ridiculous. The large expanse of isolated beach south of Brunswick Heads has always been a local place to have a skinny dip. It has never been a destination nudist spot that has needed “cleaning up”, more a place for us locals to have a quiet swim on our daily walks. Total nanny state policing which needs to be dropped.

  22. I have visited that area many times as a tourist but it is most unlikely that I will do so again. There are other places without such extreme prejudice.

  23. Sexual predators can strike at any time. Not just in designated areas! What’s to stop them exposing themselves in the main populated swimming areas?? Or anywhere for that matter? How is it that we are confusing genuine naturalists with sexual predators? These are two clearly separate groups of people and separate issues, one is harmless and a basic human right, and one is harmful and a crime. The beach should be opened up to allow people to skinny dip where they wish, whilst recommending certain areas where they can be in peace (I imagine some naturalists would have been exposed to harassment themselves for their choice of not wearing clothes) to allow others the choice not to go there if they find it offensive. The police should spend their time targeting the real criminals, not peaceful citizens. I did not agree to this law nor vote for it and I do not condone it. It should be repealed. Let’s stop going backwards as a society and start going forwards for once.

  24. $1000 for a couple of seniors skinny dipping?
    I thought the police were supposed to be on the look out for sex offenders.
    The police happily let nude cyclists ride around the town once a year because they know there’d be an immediate and forceful public reaction if they tried to arrest anyone but a mature couple on a deserted beach, suddenly the police become vigilant upholders of the law.
    Another classic police PR blooper that damages the fragile reputation sensible police work hard to create.

  25. I’m horrified that nudity is being confused with lewd behaviour, or unwelcome sexual activity.

    Logic suggests that all babies should be charged at birth for being born naked!

    Is anyone else interested in crowd funding a defense?

    I’m willing to put in $500….

    Anyone else?

  26. if the police forcer trying to be despised by the community they are doing a great job going after two people having a nude swim on a deserted strip of beach, taking their dogs to the streets to catch someone with a joint and harassing drivers with their poorly designed drug testing inhalers. Have they got nothing better to do?

  27. What the hell has happened to Byron Shire when 2 sixty year olds have a quick skinny dip and get $1000 fines. The police should explain how these people were committing a luid and offensive act.The police surely have real crimes to attend to. Byron has lost its free spirit. Its just another Bondi. The police should hang their heads in shame. While real crime is going on our tax dollars are wasted harrassing two 60 year old people hurting no one. No wonder people have lost all respect for the police.

  28. This is totally ridiculous! I can feel the outrage in everyone’s voice. The police is taking their powers to a level nobody wants and needs. These fines should be immediately withdrawn. Otherwise I’ll help chip in to the legal campaign to have it thrown out.

    This comes from someone who doesn’t generally skinny dip, but I would like to retain the right to do so if I wish to in areas were it’s peaceful enough to do this.

  29. First of all the police are wrong – simply being naked is not “offensive behavior” and it is NOT against the LAW to be simply naked – it maybe against legislation but that is very different from LAW. What a waste of resources. More importantly the police need to be mindful of who they work for and it is not the purported Government.

    As no legislation has been validly enacted since 1986 (Australia Act 1986 – Royal Assent) you can form your own conclusion.

  30. In responce to the intimidation, harassment and fining of people swimming naked in isolated beach areas. by local Byron Police I have set up a Face Book group called “Stop police harassment of naked sun worshippers”. This page has been set up to stop police harassment and support people who have been fined $500 for being naked. I recommend challenging any fine in court . Don’t accept this harassment and intimidation by the police, in fact your could counter charge the police with harassment. If a lawyer would like to support a test case pro bono contact the page and anyone wanting to donate to any court cost also comment on the page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/160820774557111/

  31. I am saddened by this news, it is very sad when the bad behavior of a selfish few effect the innocent past time of well behaved and well meaning people. Skinny dipping on secluded beaches has been going on for decades and no one has caused an incident, they (including me) usually find somewhere quiet have a dip and go on their way. This problem has arisen with the increase in selfish people usually male who ogle and display themselves lewdly for attention or self generated sexual gratification. These pathetic excuses for human beings relieve their frustration caused by their loneliness, selfishness and inconsideration by behavior that is far from acceptable disregarding the ramifications of their actions, I am disgusted at their lack of self-control.

  32. Draconian nonsense, allow Northern NSW just a little of the Aquarius spirit that drew so many thousands of people to live and visit here in the first place.

  33. offensive conduct under the nsw summary offences act requires several tests be met. two that are relevant to this – 1. would a person of reasonable firmness find the behaviour offensive? = possibly/maybe and that would be up to the magistrate but there’s plenty of scope for argument on that… 2. a member of the public need not actually be present/witness the behaviour BUT would a member of the public BE LIKELY to be present?… if NO then NOT GUILTY. if the ‘offenders’ had made efforts to be in a remote area of the beach where nobody was around then the matter would likely be dismissed. perhaps costs awarded against the police for initiating a prosecution that was unlikely to succeed. these police are handing out tickets believing people will be too embarrassed to challenge them. please – somebody!

  34. I suppose that, if the police officers drive their vehicle more than seven kms along the sand then back to Byron, seeking out sexual predators, but find none (because most have now been discouraged by publicity), then issuing $1,000 in fines financially justifies the long drive.

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