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.
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.