Maxine Hawker, Raphael Lee-Cass and Wayne Pendobny believe police patrols have significantly improved the safety for nude beach goers and that the clothing optional area should be extended closer to Elements at Byron Bay.
Maxine Hawker, Raphael Lee-Cass and Wayne Pendobny believe police patrols have significantly improved the safety for nude beach goers and that the clothing optional area should be extended closer to Elements at Byron Bay. Marc Stapelberg

Nudists hit back at beach complaints

NATURISTS have hit back after complaints were made about nude bathers engaging in "predatory behaviour" at Tyagarah and Sunrise beaches in Byron Bay.

Calls were made by residents for the clothing optional beach at Tyagarah to be shut down after several reports of people engaging in lewd behaviour.

But a passionate group of people, who call themselves naturists or just simply 'skinny dippers', said this behaviour was no longer a problem and say "if you can't go for a skinny dip in Byron Bay, where are you going to go?".

And these people want their beach back.

Sunrise Beach resident Maxine Hawker said she has been swimming naked at Sunrise Beach for 25 years, and had "never felt threatened".

"I'm really outraged that my beach (Sunrise) is no longer clothing optional," Ms Hawker said.

"There's been this meshing of criminal, offensive behaviour with people who swim nude and they are two very separate areas.

"The naturists keep the beach safe, they are not interested at all in sexual behaviour."

Ms Hawker believes the decision to close the beach which was originally 1300m and decreasing it to a 800m "isolated" stretch now was "increasing the chances of predatory behaviour".

"My research has showed any problems that happen with clothing optional beaches happens when they're isolated.

"It's making it isolated that's the problem, I don't feel safe at Tyagarah - it's too isolated for me and most women."

But she said reports of lewd and predatory behaviour was "all based on history".

"Predators should know that if they go to a clothing optional beach there will be a police patrol - and that's what we want," she said.

Myocum resident and member of Byron Naturists Debra Conomy said the beach had "changed completely" and the atmosphere was "fantastic".

"It's an amazing change down there since what everyone's done - the community, naturists community, National Parks And Wildlife, the police and council," she said.

"But in the process we lost about 700m of clothing optional beach.

"We want the clothing optional beach extended so we can utilise Bayshore Drive carparking. At the moment it is 1.9kms from the carpark to the section of beach that is clothing optional."

Amongst this various community led initiatives have been introduced in an attempt to combat the issue of "sex pests" including a project where everyone wears a high-vis whistle on the beach in an effort to shame the offenders.

Raphael Lee Cass said him and other skinny dippers had "worked very hard to approach people who are doing the wrong thing on the beach for a long time now".
  "We've been trying to promote the project where everyone wears a high-vis whistle on the beach in an effort to shame the offenders from running off. We are trying to get some traction on that.   "At the moment everyone keeps their space."

Tweed Byron Police District Inspector Matt Kehoe said no assaults had been recorded at the stretch of beach in recent times.

"There is ongoing tasking in and around Tyagarah Beach area that involves Byron police, Brunswick Heads and Mullumbimby police," Insp Kehoe said.

"I can reassure people the patrols that we do will be ongoing at the location.

"Police are working with local community members, National Parks, businesses, council and users of the clothing optional beach to make it a safer area for everybody."



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