Dozens arrested in war on nude sunbathing

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sunbathers who bare all on Queensland's beaches risk a worse hazard than getting sand trapped in awkward places. Dozens of nudists have been arrested in a crackdown by police enforcing public decency laws.

Sunbathers who bare all on Queensland's beaches risk a worse hazard than getting sand trapped in awkward places. Dozens of nudists have been arrested in a crackdown by police enforcing public decency laws.

Queensland, which markets itself as the Sunshine State, is the only part of Australia where nude sunbathing is still illegal. In recent weeks, scantily clad male and female police officers have been patrolling beaches to apprehend offenders, in some cases acting as agents provocateurs, say outraged nudists. On the Gold Coast, police on motorised tricycles have been ploughing through the dunes of an environmental reserve, eyes peeled for unauthorised displays of naked flesh.

Even conventionally clothed sun worshippers have been cautioned, receiving warnings not to disrobe further.

Forty people have been arrested and charged with offences ranging from acting in an indecent manner to wilful exposure. As one sunbather complained: "You're lying there and suddenly this guy in Speedos pops out of the bushes and arrests you."

The blitz recalls the straitlaced Australia of the 1930s, when "wowsers" (killjoys) dictated social mores and beach inspectors ensured that the bathing costumes of men and women conformed to rigid standards of public decency.

Nude beaches were legalised long ago in every state except Queensland, which used to be known as Australia's "Deep North" because of its right-wing policies. Public nudity is banned there under the 1931 Vagrants, Gaming and Other Offences Act. The state government plans to review the law later this year with a view to bringing it into line with the rest of the country, but "it's not a real priority for us", said a spokesman for the Minister for Police, Tom Barton.

Les Rootsey, editor of The Australian Naturist, a magazine based on the Gold Coast, said nudists were fed up with police harassment. Mr Rootsey said that police had even intervened during an annual gathering of nudists at Alexandria Bay, near the resort town of Noosa, although in the past authorities had turned a blind eye.

Sunboys, a nudist club for gay men based in Brisbane, the state capital, also criticised the heavy-handed policing. "You have police on pushbikes and horses looking for people on the beach who aren't hurting anyone," a spokesman said.

While public exposure of genitalia is unlawful, private nudist clubs in Queensland are thriving. There are four nudist bed-and-breakfast establishments in the Cairns area.Nudists can snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef or bushwalk with a club near Laidley, west of Brisbane.Beverley Horn, the proprietor of the Tintagel naturist resort, near Rockhampton, said: "People come here because they don't want to be arrested for doing what comes naturally."

Queensland police defended their actions and brushed aside suggestions that resources might be better expended on other areas of law enforcement. A spokesman said: "It is an offence to be without clothes in public places and police have a duty to enforce the law."

Comments