FBA Origins

Alexandria Bay, Noosa Heads, one of Queensland's most popular unofficial nude beaches.Frustrated by not having any legal nude beaches in Queensland a group of Brisbane nudists called a Public Meeting on 1st July, 1988, which led to the formation of The Free Beach Association of Qld Inc. The aim of the Association was to lobby for a change in the laws to allow Local Governments to designate sections of beaches where people could legally swim and sunbathe nude.

Coincidentally, whilst this meeting was being planned 16 people were arrested on Buchans Point beach, a ‘well known’ nudist beach near Cairns, in May 1988. This caused an enormous public outcry in the area and the Far North Queensland Free Beach Association was formed to lobby for legalising nude bathing in selected areas. In spite of favourable support from many quarters another 11 were arrested in September 1989 at the same beach and at nearby Trinity Beach.

Buchans Point Beach near Cairns, scene of the arrests in 1988 and 1989.Unfortunately, after more than 16 years and many submissions, constant lobbying and much favourable publicity, the Queensland State Government has not acceded to our wishes. The FNQFBA finally ran out of puff a few years ago and disbanded, but the Free Beach Association of Qld Inc remains strong and determined, and has now amalgamated with the Free Beach Association of NSW Inc to become an Australia wide organisation.

The situation in New South Wales was somewhat different as they had legal nude beaches but one was under threat of closure. Ron Wilkinson explains…

Reef Beach as it was before the walkway was installed.

The Free Beach Association of NSW was formed late in 1992 when it was learnt that legal nude bathing on Reef Beach at Balgowlah was under threat. The Manly Council, with the support of the local Member of Parliament, put into action a campaign and finally court action that would prosecute people for merely swimming and sunbathing nude on what had been a designated nudist beach for over twenty years. During that time there had never been any problems, indeed the beach had its own honorary beach inspector, Bob Reed. Charges were laid on the day of the protest.Reef Beach as it was before the walkway was installed.

Charges were laid on the day of the protest.At first we believed our legal right to bathe nude at the beach was written in law. When we realised our recreational lifestyle was really under threat, the beach-goers united and formed what was to become the Free Beach Association of NSW Inc, under the stewardship of its president Bob Reed. On the 9th February 1993, with numerous television cameras and a large contingent of the media in attendance, seventy persons were summonsed for doing what they had done legally for years on Reef Beach – going nude.

As it turned out, the Free Beach Association of NSW fight had only just begun and it then took four years of lobbying the then Labor Opposition to make a core promise that once in government, they would legalise Reef Beach and several others as designated nude bathing areas. Right up to a week prior to the legislation going before parliament Reef Beach was definitely included. But other Labor Parliamentarians were putting pressure in Caucus for the Premier to delete Reef Beach from the list and have it replaced with Cobblers Beach at Mosman. Triumphantly the FBA of NSW did have seven new nudist beaches legalised within the state, but to our dismay the absolute jewel in its crown, Reef Beach was not one of them.

Reef Beach TodayIt is now time to move on and after thirteen fruitful years the executive of the FBA of NSW acknowledges that it has done as much as it can for the nudist movement in New South Wales. In December 2004 our members voted to merge with the Free Beach Association of Qld and create one Free Beach Association for naturists in all states and territories throughout Australia. We recommend that all nudists / naturists join this fine organisation and continue the ongoing fight for future generations of Australians.

And so we enter a new phase in the quest for more legal clothing optional beaches right around Australia. Following the creation of a single national association, Free Beaches Australia Inc, it is hoped that we can now attract sizeable membership in all states, with local groups in each area co-ordinating social and sporting activities at the local level. If you enjoy swimming and sunbathing without the need for a costume please join our association and help us grow into a force that will command the respect and recognition we deserve.

“Neck-to-Knee” to Nude Bathing

Horse drawn English bathing boxes (circa 1900).When the First Fleet arrived in Botany Bay just over 200 years ago they found the locals, the Aborigines, naked and unashamed, sensibly attired for the warm Australian climate. But those early settlers brought their old English morality with them. It was indecent to be nude. Even at the beginning of the 20th century the British used horse drawn bathing boxes to avoid being seen entering the ocean for a swim.

Sydney's Manly Beach bathing pavilion built in 1938.


During the early settlement days in Australia some of the British soldiers apparently found the weather and the white sandy beaches just too tempting, and often went swimming in the surf, in the nude! In 1833, to preserve decency in this newly found colony, the Governor of the day banned sea bathing completely during daylight hours. It was not until 1902, after a lot of civil disobedience and many arrests, that this law was finally revoked. Of course bathing was a complete cover up in those days, with some of the ladies’ costumes containing up to ten metres of material! Also, bathing was segregated with separate hours or different parts of the beach for men and women. Once again civil disobedience won out and mixed bathing eventually became the norm.

As sea bathing became more and more popular during the 1920s and 30s huge pavilions were built on the more popular beaches. These provided changing and shower rooms, refreshments, and usually had enclosed nude sunbathing areas (separate ones for males and females of course).

A daring 2 piece costume of the 1950sThe progress of bathing costumes over the years is a story in itself, with each agonising step drawing protests and cries of immorality. In 1907 one lady was arrested for wearing a costume that exposed her arms and feet. Then in 1915 surfboard riding was introduced into Australia, by a teenage girl would you believe! She was labelled a hussy because the legs of her suit had crept up above her knees.

Airbrushing req'd until 1972The trend toward freedom continued and by the late 1930s it was backless costumes for the ladies and, shock horror, men going topless. After the war the two piece became popular, and then during the 1960s the bikini emerged. But again it was not without trauma, many girls being ordered off the beach or arrested because their costumes did not make the bare minimum requirements.

From then on it was a matter of less and less. The bikinis just got smaller and smaller with some rather ingenious methods being used to keep those tiny scraps of material in place. Men’s costumes had also diminished, and the thin, soft material tended to reveal more than it concealed.

Stockton Beach closed in one day, 1972During this entire process nude bathing on some of the more remote beaches had always been furtively taking place, but during the late 1960s and early 1970s it became quite popular, and more or less condoned by the general public and the authorities. Finally, on the 15th of February 1975, the South Australian Government, under the Premiership of Don Dunstan, declared nude bathing legal on Maslin Beach, making it the first legal ‘dress optional’ beach in Australia.