Cherie Lidbury was on her lunch break when she first tried nudism. It was the late ’80s, she was working in a sales job in Perth, and took herself down to a clothing-optional beach at Swanbourne, pulled there by the warm weather, cool water and her own curiosity.
“I sit down on the sand. There’s naked people laying around, and it’s like ‘I’ve got nothing to lose. No one knows me.’ So off I strip, in the water I go,” the 57-year-old told Mamamia.
Cherie said no one – “literally no one” – looked at her that day. To the other naked beachgoers, she was just a another body slipping into the gentle waves. It was a freedom like no other she’d felt; from judgement, from expectation, from inhibition. “It’s the most amazing feeling swimming nude, you know.”
Cherie, an artist, has embraced the nudist lifestyle for almost three decades now. Her family were critical at first but have come to accept its part of who she is, part of her life. These days, she and her partner go on nudists cruises, have regular getaways to nudist retreats, and together operate nudist accommodation in Newcastle, roughly two hours north of Sydney.
“When you go down to a nudist place you don’t judge people,” she said. “You don’t know where they live. You don’t know what type of house they’ve got, or whether they’ve got a Mercedes or a Mini in the driveway. You don’t know what job they do. You can’t see, visually, how they present themselves. Being naked strips that all away.”
Kat Campbell was 19 when she started nude modelling.
“As a teenager, I was definitely not comfortable in my own body at all. I was someone that was kind of bullied in school. So I just kind of retreated into myself. I had no body confidence. I didn’t think I was pretty,” she told Mamamia. “But modelling was different. I just had this feeling that I wanted to do it – I couldn’t explain why. It’s just something that makes me feel at peace and it gives me freedom.”
Eleven years on, the 30-year-old makes her living from hospitality, but still poses for the odd life-drawing class. It was only a couple of years ago that she adopted the nudist lifestyle. She’d seen some information about nudists gatherings, and something clicked.