• Why Australia's oldest nudist club wants you to take your clothes off
Nudism was once booming across Australia but in recent years it's been on the decline. The Feed went to visit Australia's oldest nudist club to see why they think more people should get their kit off.
Airdate: 
Wednesday, May 21, 2014 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

In the 50s and 60s being a nudist was seen as a symbol of freedom with many nudist clubs and beaches packed with people wanting to let it all hang free. But in recent years nudism has been on the decline especially among younger generations.

Established in March 1949 the Heritage Australia Club is the oldest continually operational social nudist club in the country.

Michael is the president of the Heritage Australia Club and says he loves the feeling of not having clothes on.

“Particularly on hot days... if we've got to be out somewhere all I can think of is I wish I was home, the quicker I get home and get my clothes off the better," says Michael. "I'm a nudist because it's the freedom of not having to have clothes on in whatever environment it is."

Michael and his wife joined the club around 14 years ago and they both say it’s the “best thing” they’ve ever done.

Les has been a nudist for close to 25 years. He decided to become a nudist after supporting a protest against the closure of Reef Beach - a popular nudist beach in the 70s and 80s.

Les says he can't think of any drawbacks to being a nudist.

"I like the fact that there is no real pretence in nudism," says Les. "People don’t try to out dress one another, obviously... everybody’s equal."

"You know it’s nice sitting in the shade with the breeze blowing across your body. An air bath I call it. Getting an air bath sitting out there. Lovely."

Like other social clubs – Heritage Club members must abide by a range of club rules including always sitting on a towel, no photography without permission, and of course no touching.

And in the rare case that a member gets an erection the offending member removes themselves from the group until he settles down.

Michael says that being naked helps level differences and build trust between members of the club.

“We’re all vulnerable but at the same time there’s a greater respect for the other people in the club because of our vulnerability and there’s also a greater trust,” says Michael. “We have to trust each other, otherwise the club would collapse.”

The club currently has around 40 members but they are always looking for new people to join.

But one thing you won’t see at the Heritage Club – or many other nudist clubs around Australia - is an abundance of young members. The nudist movement has lost some traction in recent years with most club members now belonging to the 50+ age group.

Attracting younger demographics is an issue that many in the club can't quite get their head around. And Michael says that despite the lack of young people he can’t see a reason for new generations not to join the nudist movement.

“The younger members are the future of the different nudist clubs, doesn’t matter whether it’s this one or any other one,” says Michael. “But I can’t understand why the reluctance is for young people who... generally regard themselves as free and liberated not to try nudism.”

Fay and Kevin have been members of the club for around four years and go to the club every chance they get.

Fay became a nudist after she met Kevin almost nine years ago - now they spend most of their time in the nude.

"She come out one day and I was mowing the grass, backyard in the nud," says Kevin. "She got the shy of her life and I said 'well, I'm not hiding it from you.'"

Fay says she was nervous the first time she got naked in front of other people but now she wouldn't have it any other way.

"Our bodies are getting fresh air, sunshine, they’re not smothered by clothes," says Fay. "You just feel free and you know really relaxed."

The pair even has a sign on their door that says 'nudists live here' to warn any unsuspecting visitors of what they can expect if they enter.

"[We] sleep in the nude, walk round the house in the nude, backyard in the nude," says Fay. "The only thing we can’t do is go out the front in the nude."

"I was out watering the grass and the roses last night in the nud... We do everything in the nud."

However being naked can come with some hazards. Members need to pay attention to avoid too much exposure to the sun and also to be aware of their surroundings.

But most importantly members need to be especially careful when they're cooking in the kitchen or over an open flame.

Fay says she learnt what not to do when cooking in the nude the hard way.

"I leant over... to get a knife... and I went 'Oh that was hot' and grabbed me boob," says Fay. "[Kevin] said 'what's wrong', and I said 'I've burnt me boob'."

"I've done that a couple of times...so I don't do it no more; I've learnt a lesson after twice."

There are also plenty of misconceptions about what nudism is really about. Michael makes a point of reminding people that there’s nothing to be scared of.

“There’s a perception of fear,” says Michael. “There’s no need to be afraid of our bodies whether we’ve got clothes on or whether we haven’t.”

Fay says one of the misconceptions is that nudism is seen as dirty and that people are only there to perv on others. She says that's far from the reality of what being a nudist is like.

"People have one look and that’s it," says Fay. "People feel like they’re too embarrassed to do it... I think deep down they want to try it but they’re too scared to try it."

And one of the biggest misconceptions in nudism is of course the question of size – but according to Les the truth is that size really doesn’t matter.  

“A lot of people think that every man has got a fairly large penis and every woman has got beautiful breasts and a shapely body but it’s just not a fact,” says Les.  “There’s the long and the short of it.”

“I mean it’s just, everybody’s different. But everybody’s the same.”
 
So with so many misconceptions and hazards to nudism - why become a nudist at all?

Many of the members say being a nudist is really about the freedom and lifestyle.

“When you were born you were born naked, you didn’t come out with clothes on,” says Fay. “You’re doing something that you’ve already done when you’re a baby but just don’t remember and that freedom is something that you’ll never forget.”

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