ACT News

Navigating the nudists at Kambah Pools

The secret to enjoying the Kambah Pool is simple: go left if you brought your swimmers and go right if you didn't.

Generations of Canberrans have grown up swimming at the popular Murrumbidgee River corridor spot where visitors and locals alike can find relief from hot summer days in the capital.

Along with fresh water and sandy banks, the area is home to Canberra's only official nude bathing area.

Clearly signposted and about 200m downstream from the northern car park, a Territory and Municipal Services directorate spokeswoman said the nude swimming spot's special status dated back to the 1970s.

"It is our understanding that a section of Kambah Pool was designated as a nude bathing area under the Nudity Act 1976, prior to self-government," the spokeswoman said.

The law provides protection from arrest for those ACT citizens who appear naked in designated public places - which according to advocates for nudism in Australia is as high as nine per cent of the population.

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Our love affair with swimming and the beach hasn't diminished in the three decades since the area was designated but a July survey suggests Australians are less likely to want to swim in the nude.

The annual Flip Flop survey found only 5 per cent cite going nude at the beach as their preference, but 24 per cent said they had swum topless.

Germans were the nationality most likely to go nude at the beach, with 17 per cent saying they have stripped off.

In August, Byron Bay Council courted controversy when it moved to end nude bathing at the town's only official "clothes optional" beach.

The plan outraged nudists who described the move as the latest effort to "beige the rainbow region" and satisfy a new wave of more conservative residents.

Greg, a spokesman for the Australian Naturist Federation, said the swimming spot should make Canberra proud.

I think a lot of people would dream of finding themselves marooned on a tropical island with no one around, so they can spend their days living naked.

"I think everyone has been skinny dipping at one time or another, and if you are fortunate enough to find a place to do that, it can be very enjoyable," he said.

"There are fewer and fewer places in Australia where you can be in a position to find yourself able to do that and there is always the concern that you could get arrested."

Greg said the decline in nude-friendly places came as Australia became increasingly conservative in attitudes to going naked.

"People playing tennis wear clothing which assists them in playing the game, but wearing clothing for a swim doesn't assist you at all."

The organisation's code of behaviour calls for the rights of clothes-wearing people to be protected and does not condone public sexual acts.

It bars members from unauthorised photography at nudist sites as well as unwelcome communications and inappropriate touching.

"I think a lot of people would dream of finding themselves marooned on a tropical island with no one around, so they can spend their days living naked," Greg said.

"I think a lot of women would imagine that as very romantic. It's a lifestyle and a culture which is very common in Europe on any beach."

He called for other public recreation sites including tennis courts to be designated as nudist-friendly.

A word of warning to visitors eager to go for a dip in Kambah's clothed section: some unsuspecting swimmers have had a rude shock by swimming or walking downstream near the water's edge.

No warning signs are in place as you approach but the truth is quickly revealed once you're there.

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