'SKIN-CRAWLING': 'Did you know men are watching you?'
LIVING my whole life in Bundaberg, I've never thought twice about visiting the beach on my own, but as I rolled over to sun my back on Sunday afternoon, the sound of snapping twigs behind me made my heart skip a beat.
Walking along the Mon Repos beach front I noticed there were more people out than usual. I found a sunny spot along the bank and laid down my towel while talking to my partner on the phone.
Time passed as we spoke about the weekend, and I watched the ocean crash as people passed by me.
It took a little while for me to realise one particular man wearing a straw hat had walked past me more than once. More than twice.
I found myself in a situation that potentially could have ended quite differently. There was a man standing about down to my right, and another man to my left. I remembered seeing another man walk along the bike path behind me not long beforehand, and I quickly felt unsafe.
Thankfully, there was a woman walking around the bend in the distance.
As I rolled over to gather my things I heard the snapping of twigs from the tree line behind me. I looked up to see the man in the straw hat briskly walking away. Had he been watching me? Or was I just overreacting?
I told my partner about what I'd seen, but we brushed it off. I hung up the phone just as the woman reached me and, as she approached, I thought she must have been looking for directions.
"Excuse me," she said, "do you know that there are three men watching you?"
I paused, shocked, not quite able to accept that my gut feeling had been right.
I told her that I had noticed something felt a little off, but hadn't taken it seriously.
She sat with me until the men left and we discussed our concerns about the policing of the area. I called her when I got to my car to let her know I was safe, but I was sad and a little shaken to think what could have happened if she didn't come along when she did.
Senior Constable Nigel Schultz said they had charged some people with offences along the strip, and did get people behaving in a lewd manner along the beach, but said it happened mostly away from the walking tracks, in the bushland area.
"Unfortunately, some websites give false information about it being a meeting point," he said.
"The Mon Repos area is patrolled daily down Moores Rd and we do motorbike patrols through the bike path.
"We also walk through the bushland behind and check licence plates of cars to ensure they aren't wanted for anything."
I wasn't aware that a petition to make the northern end of Mon Repos a nudist beach collected more than 200 signatures in 2004.
"There have been problems with people lurking on the beach and some people exposing themselves because they think it's a nude beach," Snr Const Schultz said.
"We can usually encourage those people to move on and not come back."
Snr Const Schultz said people should phone PoliceLink on 131 444 if they saw anything suspicious, or call 000 if they were in immediate danger.
"People should be aware of their surroundings," he said.
"We've never had anybody actually attacked there but I wouldn't advise females to walk alone, especially in this day and age, and use the tracks available."