Almost 20 years to the day since Byron celebrated an historic Nude Ain’t Rude rally on Belongil beach, local activists and nature lovers are asking if it’s time to hold another.
The call follows the arrest of four people in just a few weeks for swimming naked in a quiet area of beach well south of Brunswick Heads but outside Byron Council’s (recently reduced) official clothing optional area.
Dean Jefferys told Echonetdaily he took his three-month old daughter to the rally, which was held on Australia Day 1998, not long after having a fine for offensive behavior quashed by the courts.
Mr Jefferys, who is now best known for his work educating the community on whales and shark nets, said he would take up the cudgels again on behalf of those arrested and speak to police about ‘whether this is part of a regular campaign’.
‘If it is then we’ll be challenging it in some way, either through the court system or organising some sort of civil disobedience,’ he said.’
‘Maybe we need another nude rally.’
Two decades ago he fought a similar battle when he was fined for offensive behaviour for being naked on Belongil beach but decided to take it to court.
‘We went to the local court, and then the district court – and we had a barrister come on board to challenge the person who made the complaint, that they were actually offended.
‘As it turned out, the person who made the complaint was a nurse who sees naked people all the time, bathing them and whatever. It was pointed out by the barrister that they couldn’t possibly be offended… and so the case was thrown out.’
Nude over the cornflakes
Mr Jefferys said there had been ‘a bit of a push’ by some of the Belongil residents at the time ‘to get rid of the people who were swimming naked up there’.
‘I think they said in some of the letters to The Echo that they didn’t like didn’t like seeing nude bodies over their cornflakes, when they were having their breakfast looking out at the water. They saw it as their front yard rather than the public’s.’
Mr Jefferys said he was reluctant to take on another campaign but he would ‘like to see the police respect not just locals but basically humanity’.
‘We’ve supposedly thrown off the shackles of shame, as we’ve seen recently with the World Naked Bike Ride, with 200 people cycling naked around Byron Bay.
‘So why are they victimising people just going for a little skinny dip on the beach when that’s got absolutely nothing to do with any sexual harassment?
‘I know they say they’re acting because they got some complaint about weird behavior around the nude beach area.
Make all beaches clothes optional
‘But when we had the Nude Ain’t Rude rally, we didn’t want a nude beach area, we just wanted clothes optional areas on all the beaches outside the main swimming areas. This would’ve avoided this whole concentration, where people know they can go to “perve” on other people who are naked.
‘If it’s all spread out all over the shire then you don’t have that concentration. You also don’t have the danger element. If women particularly are swimming naked in an isolated area, that’s an unsafe situation potentially.
‘From Brunswick Heads to Byron should all be a clothing optional area – and other areas too.
‘That’s why I’m keen to take it to the court system. Police aren’t really offended by naked people – they’re just using the law to victimise and attack local people, like they do with the drug laws.
‘It’s important that we stand up for our rights to be able to swim in our birthday suits,’ Mr Jeffery said.