A daring two piece costume is featured
on the cover of Solar magazine in the 1950s
All the genital area had to be
air-brushed out of the photographs until 1972
Maslin Beach south of Adelaide was
Australia's first legal nude beach
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.
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).
The 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.
toward freedom continued and by the late1930s 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.
entire process nude bathing on some of the more remote beaches had always
been furtively taking place, but during the late1960s 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.
Horse drawn English bathing
boxes (circa 1900)
Sydney's Manly Beach bathing pavilion
built in 1938
An ABC TV crew
record the first
attempt at a legal nude beach at Stockton Beach near Newcastle in 1972.
closed it down the next day.
Samurai Beach just near Stockton is now
a legal nude beach