Having found gold at a prospector’s camp, I’ve hot-footed it to Kalgoorlie, visited a gold dealer and now find myself in an unusual situation…
I am being entertained by a delightful, attractive blonde in Kalgoorlie’s last remaining historical brothel. I appear to have followed, in the last 24 hours, a well worn path and here I am, in this den of sin and depravity. Enjoying myself bigly. (Dear Editor, Please may I use that word?)
Except that there are twenty other people in the same room with me, on a fascinating, insightful and hilarious tour of Kalgoorlie’s last remaining working brothel. Carmel, who has owned Questa Casa for the last 25 years, is conducting a highly entertaining tours of her brothel.
“We could not survive,” she admits, “without the tours.”
Carmel, was a Queenslander in need of direction after a family tragedy when she bought the brothel after being marooned in Kalgoorlie having, initially, decided against purchasing the 113 year old building.
In her quiet, well-spoken, understated tones she is very easily mistaken for a high end Pom, when, in fact, she is fourth generation Australian. She told us about the rules and regulations brought in at the turn of the century when men outnumbered women 20:1, a time when Kalgoorlie was rapidly overtaking Coolgardie as the principle mining town in the region. She told us why the high fences were constructed at the front of the building to shield negotiations from onlookers as well as to preserve the respectable nature of Kalgoorlie:
“Kalgoorlie was a family town,” she asserts several times.
She tells of the system of negotiations designed to protect the girls from finding themselves in dangerous or uncomfortable situations, talks of the demise of the other 18 brothels in the town and talks of the rules and regulations that kept the family part of town separated from the seedier side: working girls had to come from outside town, could not live anywhere but in the brothel and must never, ever attend places where people gather - so no outings to the races, pub, shows and so on.
Breaches of the rules lead to banishment from the town and could mean permanent closure of the brothel.
Carmel’s daily tour, which she has run for the last ten years, lasts for one and a half hours, includes a viewing of all three ‘working rooms’ , and her gleeful demonstration, on a Bundy Bear lying face down on the bed of the “Domination Room”, of a few sharp strokes of a “paddle”. There are numerous jokes and priceless anecdotes of unusual goings on, tales of some of the characterful girls who worked there, a history of the change of the town’s attitude to and reality of prostitution, a few statistics regarding number of clients and, er, speed of service. One of our group was invited to work for Carmel after she cracked a particularly witty pun which I wish - O! How I wish! - I could repeat. But, as you would expect, the tour is for over eighteens - and so were most of the tales and jokes.
We all spilled out into the late afternoon light chuckling about the most entertaining and risqué history lesson ever.
And it occurred to me, a little later on as I watched a huge full moon rise over the Superpit, that my journey around the goldfields and, particularly of the last 24 hours, was one which had been repeated (almost exactly) thousands of times before in the last 130 years, by men in search of that elusive precious metal. Journeys which, in the dying years of the 19th Century, were witness to unspeakable privation, tragedy, loss and love. Which forged today’s state of Western Australia both politically and economically.
So little is now left as testimony to the hardiness and determination of men who built the multiple towns and their connecting railways., but it is all still out there to discover for ourselves. As are the various delights of Carmel’s brothel…