History: Looking Back

Looking Back history feature: Naked swimming in the Gong

Looking Back

The Wollongong Men's Baths 1910. A popular place for naked bathing. The Wollongong Men’s Baths 1910. A popular place for naked bathing.

By MICK ROBERTS ©

MAYBE it’s our weather – the hot summers.

The past time of skinny dipping, getting the clobber off, and bathing naked in the surf has persisted in the Illawarra since colonial times.

During early settlement, British soldiers found the Australian weather and the white sandy beaches all too tempting, and often stripped bare to swim naked in the surf.

In 1833, to “preserve decency”, the NSW Colonial Governor of the day banned sea bathing completely during daylight hours. Swimming in the surf, with or without your togs, remained criminal for over 70 years. Despite this, newspaper reports of people swimming naked along Illawarra’s coastline began to appear from the late 1880s. The Illawarra Mercury reported on December 29 1888:

nude swimming horsesA correspondent writes as follows on this subject: – About noon on Christmas Day, a small…

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About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.

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