Well it’s taken 62 years but I finally got the courage to visit a brothel! Not a working brothel (of course) but a museum/tourist attraction.
In its heyday Kalgoorlie’s Hay street boasted 18 brothels. When gold was discovered near Kalgoorlie in 1893 thousands of men flocked to the area in the hope of making their fortunes. Men needed to eat, drink and well you know, so eating and drinking houses were established along with suppliers of other goods and services. One of these services was prostitution. The “ladies” knew that many of the men would be willing to part with some of their gold finds in exchange for sexual favours.
As Kalgoorlie grew and the men brought their wives and children to town the leaders didn’t want the “ladies” roaming the town and any embarrassment that may cause. The brothels were restricted to a couple of blocks along Hay Street which is just one street back from the Main Street (Hannam Street). Under the Government “Containment Policy” the working girls could only live, work and be in this area and were not allowed to go into the main streets of town. The policy worked and business boomed. The local government put in strict rules also and stipulated that if a brothel closed, even for a day, it could not reopen. If the building fell into disrepair it would be closed down. If it burnt down it couldn’t be rebuilt. Eventually only 3 brothels remained.
22 years ago the containment policy was scrapped and with the advent of mobile phones girls began working directly for themselves without having to pay their Madam. Business slowly declined in Hay street and now Questa Casa is the only remaining brothel.
Carmel the Brothel Madam has for the past few years run tours to supplement her declining income and has not operated as a brothel as her last girl left over 4 months ago. There is still money in sex but just not in Hay Street anymore.
There were about 12 on the tour, the second tour of the day, and 80 year old Carmel had plenty of stories to tell. She brought the Brothel 30 years ago having had no previous experience in the industry. She was simply looking for a business to buy.
We were then shown the “starting stalls” and 3 of the rooms. Kalgoorlie was as famous for the brothels as it was for gold and the tour was well worth doing.