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Byron Shire
May 20, 2024

Mayor calls for more tolerance of naturists by police

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Maxine (pictured) who has recently recovered from surgery says she will go to court over a $500 fine she received for being naked in the water at Tyagarah Tea Tree Lake. Photo Chris Dobney

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson has described the police’s ‘zero tolerance’ of naturists as ‘excessive’ and called on the hierarchy to allow officers more discretion.

And a Byron Bay local, Maxine, says she will fight the $500 infringement she received at Tyagarah Tea Tree Lake just over a week ago, telling Echonetdaily that she has been off work due to ill health and cannot afford to pay the fine.

Since chief inspector Luke Arthurs announced the campaign several weeks ago, police have handed out at least 15 fines to people found naked outside the shire’s 800 metres of designated clothing optional beach, whether or not they were aware of recent changes in the rules.

Maxine, who has been a Byron Bay local for three years, said she had swum naked at the lake twice before after ‘being taken there the first time by a friend who was a school principal’.

‘Each time I had swum naked, and there were naked people there. I had no idea that it was illegal. I’m an extremely law abiding citizen,’ she told Echonetdaily.

Quick dip

On Saturday, January 20, Maxine and a friend were returning to Mullumbimby and decided on a whim to go to the lake for a quick dip.

‘It was a hot day; we’d just been to Mullum markets. I’ve recently had some really heaving surgery and my friend said “why don’t we go for a swim at Tyagarah lake?”

‘I had no swimmers but I thought it might be therapeutic, lolling in the lovely tea tree lake,’ she said.

‘We jumped in – he had his shorts on – and next thing he said “oh the police are coming”.

‘Because I’ve lost a lot of use of my shoulder I couldn’t even get out, so I stayed in the water and they ordered me to get out,’ she said.

‘So I had to be assisted to get out and [the police] said “oh, we’ll hold up the towel and we won’t look”.

The defaced ‘no nudity’ sign appears to show it is allowed. Photo Byron Naturists


Maxine said she hadn’t seen the police on her arrival and there was no police car on the road, ‘so they [may have been] hidden in the bushes.

She said the younger policeman didn’t speak and the older one who did all the talking ‘was tough’.

‘He said, “this is illegal”.

‘I said “are you going to fine me?” and he said “yes, it’s zero tolerance”.

‘I said, “you’ve seen I just had to be helped out of the water – I’ve just come out of hospital recently. I don’t even have $500: that’s my fortnightly welfare payment.”

‘I got really teary. It was three months since I’d worked. I was really, really ill; I could’ve died.

‘I told them that I didn’t see any signage.’

‘A man came over and said the sign was misleading [as it had been defaced] and appeared to suggest clothing was optional at the lake.

‘And the policeman dismissed him – he was a bit cross that he’d come over.

‘When I went out I saw there were two signs and only one mentioned nude bathing, with the word ‘not’ scratched out. The other is about behaviour, not about nudity,’ Maxine said.

She has elected to go to court and within 30 days will be notified of a date. Fortunately a friend has offered to pay her court costs.

Not offensive

‘How was my behaviour offensive?’ she queried?

‘The police were way over the other side. I didn’t think the law was about offending them. I thought it was about other people. The people next to me were lovely; they were supporting me.

‘And I was in the water: I didn’t stand out of the water naked, I wasn’t sitting on the edge, I wasn’t sunbaking,’ she said.

Excessive: mayor

Byron Shire Mayor Simon Richardson said the police action ‘appeared to be excessive’.

‘There has been heavy enforcement,’ he told News Corp.

‘If there is an elderly couple or a young couple having a skinny dip, I’d like police to feel they have the power to ascertain whether that is an offence or not, and give them a warning,’ Cr Richardson said.

Byron Naturists spokesperson Debra Conomy is encouraging people to ‘swim between the signs’ but said sexual predators should be the police target rather than nudists.

She added that lewd behaviour had died down since police and her group started daily patrols to deal with the problems last year.

‘Everyone is looking after everyone because people just want to be able to go for a nude swim without the problems,’ Ms Conomy added.

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  1. Move the designated area! It is in the wrong place. For 40 plus years the nude activity has been clustered around the beach at the end of the carpark, both to the left and the right, but largely to the left or north of the carpark, Not to the right or closer to Byron Bay, where the “designated area” was so badly chosen!!! Somebody has completely stuffed up on that specific location, badly!!! Rather than separating the nudists from others, the designated area plonks them smack in the middle of all the other users of the beach. Why? it makes absolutely zero sense! if the nudists were to be corralled to the north of the carpark then there would be no clash with those other users. VERY FEW PEOPLE OTHER THAN THE NUDISTS EVER USE THAT PART OF THE BEACH! This is evident from how empty it has been since the designation has been put in place! Moving the location closer to Belongil means that there is a much greater clash and potential for conflict from regular beach goers, surfers, paddlers , anglers and any commercial operators, etc who now bump into the nudists much sooner than in the past when walking north on Belongil beach. The police may drive the beach twice a day but it does not eliminate the stragglers outside the boundary and those stragglers are now spreading out closer to Belongil, so the designation in its current location is causing more of a clash between nudists and others. This will become a bigger and bigger problem as police move attention to the next squeaky wheel on their overloaded schedules. This will only end badly for the nudists, when thought through logically. As it is , beach goers from Belongil are likely to run into nudists as they walk north on the beach, which didnt use to happen much because most of the nudists were another kilometre or two north! Change it!!! it is poorly thought through!

  2. I think Richardson is wrong when he says, “give them a warning”!
    There is nothing wrong or offensive about swimming or sunbaking naked at the lake or the beaches.
    It is offensive sexual behaviour that needs to be targeted & that distinction needs to be clear for everyone to understand the difference between nudisim & depravity.
    We are SO tolerant of the myriad cultures in this land yet we denigrate & demean the very form of humanity with unjust & persecutory “interpretations of the law”.
    I say, “STOP NOW” the law is supposed to uphold our freedoms NOT suppress them & responsible nudists have every right to be as accepted as others in practicing their beliefs, healthful & environmentaly friendly practices.

    • Could not agree with you more. We are one of three couples, I know of, who will not be coming over from New Zealand any more. There must have another agenda behind this by individuals or developers. Surely the police have better things to do or is it just because this is an easy way to give a ticket. In New Zealand there is no law against nudity.

      As I said in another reply my wife and I have spent about 5,000 hours each over the years on the wonderful beach and never had an issue. I suspect there is a lot of fabricated exaggeration in the reports of a few. I do fell sorry for those having to live in Australia. We can just stay home or go to plenty other places in the world.

  3. I’m sure Maxine is aware that ignorance of the law is no excuse, but of course if a school principal says it’s alright then why worry! And again no problem not being able to pay as the Magistrate will give you reasonable time to pay off your fines, and of course as you’re contesting it the extra court costs as well! But as you haven’t been well lately Simon Richardson now comes to your rescue saying the police action appears excessive, well Simon I’ve got news for you as many residents thing council parking, and other minor offences are excessive too, so will you forgive these extra council income streams. Of course not, so all every one needs to do is move a short distance to the legal area and obey all the rules and no fines result. How easy is that?

    • Right on, wolfe. I can see now that there’s really no need for courts or judges. You either broke the rules or you didn’t. Even if the law is ridiculous, you just have to accept it. Asking for common sense or justice is just wasting police time.

    • Couldn’t be more wrong, Wolfe. When we allow minor tyrannical laws to be enforced over our natural human rights, we pave the way to major tyrannical laws dominating every facet of our existence. If we don’t stand up and fight for our rights, the courts begin to think the community accepts this kind of enforcement, in areas typically accepted through common use as a clothes optional area. Anybody who genuinely finds the naked human body, offensive, needs pyschiatric help. The power to be offended or not lies with the beholder. Don’t like it, look away. Nudity hurts no-one and is a healthy, life-affirming habit. Should be legal and normal anywhere, but particularly at the beach or designated swimming holes. The fine is offensive and should be fought all the way to the high court if need be.

  4. The Council and councilors are hypocritical firstly for restricting the area for nude bathing at the beach and now blaming the police for enforcing the rules they introduced. Police can not use discretion to make decisions on fining. They are there to enforce the law just like with those for drug driving.

  5. It’s a difficult balancing act to honour the local past time of bathing nude at the tea tee lakes and not allowing a vacuum for predators to proceed again.
    The police presence is in response to incidents of invasive behaviour being allowed to permeate the area. I have supported the zero tolerance mandate as a tough stance was the only way the message would get through. Obviously it has not been widely made known enough from council and national parks via community information.

    As a local I also enjoyed swimming nude in the lakes but have been willing to make a sacrifice to make it more accessible to the public. Everyone in the shire knew of it’s reputation and since the new regulations it has started to get better. Unless there is a united adherence it sends a mixed message that some are still entitled to swim nude. However that may be occasionally and the rest of the time the sleeze can grow like algae on the lake!!

  6. In this case the Mayor is absolutely correct…the correct term is “discretion”…..My fear is that Police Officers are treated like the Army and are seldom able to use discretion………

  7. So then parents who take their littlies to the beach and the littlies are sans cossies, are they getting fined? It’s time for Mayor Richardson to lead a public revolt / demonstration …..a group Nudie swim.

  8. This is just another aspect of the police crackdown on anyone who doesn’t live according to the rules of the Christian fundamentalist-led fascist COALition. Notice we are not hearing about arrests of sexual predators, just innocent nudists.

  9. If the powers that be have decided that we the community will be subject to Zero Tolerance policing regarding our attire on the beach, there needs to be clear signage erected at the entrances to ALL local beaches stating in plain English what is permitted. Is it OK to be topless or not? Are children under a certain age allowed to swim naked? And to tell people that even if they’re out of sight of anyone, if they swim naked they’re committing a crime. We need to be told that police are patrolling the beach and that there is a (mandatory) fine of $500. Zero Tolerance as a policing strategy leaves a lot to be desired, and in this instance gives police ridiculous powers to issue blanket fines to many people who should be cautioned until signs are in place. Worse, it’s the kind of misuse of power that destroys the community’s trust of police, who are there to protect us, and to treat us in a fair and respectful manner.

  10. The very first point I’ll make is that the police cannot order a human to get out of water naked or not. And if she is “concealed” by water and they cause exposure – I think you have a legitimate excuse under summary offences act and next is a female does not come under summary offenses anyway if all she was doing was bathing.

  11. I’d like to know what authority police have to “order” somebody to get out of the water. And what is the penalty for “refusing to get out of water”?
    Is there a penalty for police who abuse their authority and make an ass of the law?

  12. $1000 Would be more appropriate I go there with my kids . That thing ok in your own home but not in a puplic place. Thing of others please.

  13. Well !
    I’m gob-smacked, of course I realise the police are corrupt, and are amenable to being directed to enforce laws in a discriminatory fashion, that’s their reason for existing, but to have the mayor come out and reveal that he assumes that, his direction will affect the course of the prosecution of the law is totally scandalous. I laud this honesty in making this statement, because it brings into focus this issue of selective enforcement of laws , and although it may be equally illegal for paupers or princes to sleep under bridges, we all can see who will be pursued by the ‘forces of law’ , In general it can now be seen to be at the behest of the mayors and ‘the powers that be’.
    God save us from politics and the law. G”)

  14. Last Saturday at Tyagarah beach I observed police walking down the sand dunes to arrest a young couple and an older man just a few hundred metres north of the designated area, not for any alleged improper behaviour but for simply sunbaking in the nude. They genuinely complained they had not seen the sign. The young woman also said she wished to be away from other people as she did not feel comfortable being naked surrounded by others, even if they were also naked.
    I could not observe another person as far as the eye could see in the long stretch of beach running north from the designated area to a distant Brunswick Heads.
    It may suit a small group of self-appointed spokespeople for naturists, who enjoy social contact with others, to be corralled in a small section of a remote 10km beach but many people enjoy the freedom and privacy of being alone. Often the enjoyment is a long walk along a deserted beach.
    There are those who are not confirmed naturists but people who may decide to go skinny dipping on the spur of the moment. I know very few people who have not at some time in their lives done so at a remote river, lake or beach.
    The designated area is very difficult to get to for anyone with any disability or without a car. It only comprises a mere 800m of a Shire coastline of approximately 50kms.
    By all means clear out those who act improperly and keep clear of well populated areas but let us return to the more free spirited approach that Byron has enjoyed for decades.

  15. Time for a Class Action. Those affected should take it to court and force whoever is behind this nonsense to make it stop.
    If they set up a crowd fund to finance a decent solicitor to represent them, I’ll chip in.

  16. only in Australia ! errr I mean NSW; the next step will be regressing to where we Queenslanders are…no free beaches at all. Outrageous & un-Australian

  17. Richardson’s the one who started the whole thing, so he can’t shift the blame onto the cops being ‘too tough’. The whole issue’s ridiculous, a return to the bad old days of beach inspectors, except that because someone’s not wearing a little bit of flimsy clothing, they’re guilty of an offence, attracting fines and having their names on some kind of sex offenders list.
    Leave people alone, yes, even the people who want to have sex. They’re not harming anyone. There are plenty of bad things happening that police should be more interested in than a few nudists on the beach.

  18. Glad to hear the lake is being cleaned up as it had become a horrible gay beat much like broken head.

    Decentralize the clothing optional area and keep it closer to town as it deters predators. Too many people around keeping watch.

    Last week i moved on a predator who sat a few feet from a woman sunbathing. The beach was deserted but he chose to invade her privacy.

    She was happy i was around as she didnt want to walk 1 km to the designated area.

  19. I think the fines are ridulous for swimming/ sunbaking nude at tyagerah lake or beach. It’s a well known place to go for naturists and sexual activity. It’s out of the way in a secluded area I really don’t see the big deal. I’ve seen all ages and genders go there and have fun. I don’t find any behaviour I have seen offensive, except when a police officer asked a naked man for ID ( like he’s going to pull it out of arse) . Going to the lake for a picnic and swim is quite entertaining. I felt quite sorry for 2 men that got marched out the depths of the bushes and fined for having fun together. There’s nothing like the feeling of swimming naked and making love in nature. Most people are discreet and consenting adults that engage in sexual activities. I think that’s disgraceful how the police made Maxine get out the lake. How humiliating for her. I hope she doesn’t have to pay the fine and the council/ police stop these fining people. If your reading this Maxine I hope you get to have many more pleasurable swims at the lake without offensive behaviour from the police !

  20. For over twelve years I have been listening to the stories from emotionally wounded and traumatised women coming off Tyagarah Beach. Also the 24/7 out of control behaviour behaviour at the lake and beach as a gay beat. Every resident I know has a story to tell that would leave you disgusted and outraged.
    This is me too issue
    I personally would like the whole stretch from Byron to Brunswick to now be policed and free from nude bathing, and the fines lifted to $1000.
    Since the police have begun cleaning it up there is a deep feeling of relief in the community and our council has complete support from everyone I have spoken to.

  21. Freedom from sexually intimidating, and threatening males feels immeasurably more liberating than the freedom to swim costume free. To all the males who are protesting police actions you may be better employed assisting in ridding our beaches of sex pests and vice, perversion and abuse when you see it. Congratulations to the Byron police and the council you are doing a fantastic job in restoring sanity and safety to the beaches.


  22. Police Tweed/Byron Inspector Luke Arthurs has responded to my letter today agreeing to a meeting next week with interested parties to find a workable solution e.g. mayor, naturalist group, Tyagarah residents representative, skinny dip group rep. I asked in the meantime can you ask your officers to enable their discretion on what is offensive behaviour as you are catching a lot of the normal local population in your net and it is creating a lot of backlash and animosity against the local police. I said I will attempt to hold off the call by many to have a nude ain’t rude rally till after the meeting to see if we can find a long term workable solution for everyone.. In my opinion the police need to make the distinction between predatory sexual behaviour and a simple nude swim on byron beaches. Its not rocket science. Some one who is masturbating or engaging is sexual activity in public or intimidating someone else with their sexual energy or nakedness should be addresses by the police. Most people have a phone with them, they can take a photo, if they truly find someones behaviour offensive then there is the option to ring the Byron police station on (02) 6685 9499 or 000. Then let the courts work out if it really was offensive behaviour. Catching everyone in the same net will not solve the problem. I have set up a FB group called ‘Stop police harassment of naked sun worshippers”, so if anyone has been fined or wants support with police harassment, how to challenge a fine in court or experienced sexually predatory behaviour or has ideas to find a solution to this issue you can comment there.


  23. I would like to speak about a previous comment about the 2 men making love in nature. Buy a farm love. It’s a public place.

    This is the reason for the shift. I know many women who have been inappropriately approached as some of the comments mention.

    While I feel these fines are completely misguided, I feel people who are using the local park areas as a meeting place for ‘energy exchange’ inappropriate. Go camping. Buy & tent. People, I’m quite sure do not want to be taking their kids for walk & stumble across blokes in the bushes. Personally, I think that’s a total lack of boundaries & is really offensive to expect other people to tolerate the lack of personal balance. We are talking about people whom are old enough to have respect for others.

    People have been using these pools for a long time as a sacred place to swim. I feel it is the sleezy, grubby, predatory element of behaviour not appropriate in public that has led to this.

    It’s time responsibility for these behaviours in public by men who have poor social boundaries are accepted by these men. It is not acceptable.

    Nakedness is beautiful. It’s self acceptance.
    Many local women use the tea tree lakes as a gathering place. The pools & beaches need to be clear from predatory sexual energy.
    To expect the community to accept behaviour like this is a misunderstanding of freedom.
    With freedom comes responsibility & the need for respect of the expectation of the rights to safety & freedoms of others. The right to expect others in the community to behave responsibly when claiming their own freedom to have little or no impact on the freedom of others. If you can’t do that, that is an indicator of misappropriating freedom.

    Beautifully naked is how we arrived. It’s good enough for God.
    Stop the fines for nudity & clear out the grubs.
    It’s not ok!


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