Travel Story Sex sells historical tour

The 'starting stalls' at Questa casa, location for safe, initial negotiations between interested parties...
Photo of Andy Tyndall

Discovering there’s gold in the story of prostitution.

How has it come to this? I am being entertained by a delightful, attractive blonde in Kalgoorlie’s last remaining brothel. 

I found gold in the morning, visited a gold dealer in the afternoon and now I’m here, aware that I have followed the path of many, many men before me into this den of sin and depravity. 

Except that I am here, along with 20 other people, on a fascinating, insightful and hilarious tour of Kalgoorlie’s last remaining working brothel.

Carmel has run Questa Casa, in a 113-year-old building in Kalgoorlie’s famous Hay Street, for the past 25 years, conducting tours for the past 10.

“We could not survive,” she admits, “without the tours.”

Carmel, a Queenslander in need of direction after a family tragedy, bought the brothel after becoming “marooned” in Kalgoorlie.

With her quiet, well-spoken, understated voice she is easily mistaken for a high-end Pom when, in fact, she is fourth- generation Australian. 

She tells us about the rules and regulations brought in at the turn of the last century when men outnumbered women 20 to one in a time when Kalgoorlie was growing to be the region’s principal mining town.

She says the high fences at the front of the building were constructed to shield negotiations from onlookers, as well as to preserve the 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 of the rules and regulations that kept the “family part” of Kalgoorlie separated from the seedier side.

Her daily tour lasts 90 minutes and includes a look at all three “working rooms”.

It also includes a demonstration, on a Bundy Bear stuffed “toy” lying face down on the bed, of a few sharp strokes of a “paddle”. 

There are numerous jokes and priceless anecdotes of odd goings on, and tales of some of the unusual girls who worked here.

There’s also a brief history of the change in the town’s attitude towards prostitution, and a few statistics about client numbers and, er, the speed of service. 

One of our group was even invited to work for Carmel after she cracked a particularly witty pun that I can’t repeat.

The tour is for adults only, as are most of the tales and jokes.

It occurs to me, a little later on as I watch a big full moon rise over Kalgoorlie’s Superpit, that this part of my journey has been repeated thousands of times before in the past 130 years by men in search of that elusive precious metal, gold. 

These were journeys first undertaken in the dying years of the 19th century, amid privation, tragedy, loss and love. 

They were journeys that helped forge WA and created the unique way of life of the Goldfields.

So little is now left as testimony to the hardiness and determination of men who built the many towns in the region and their connecting railways. 

But in the past week, I have followed in their footsteps, albeit in the air-conditioned comfort of a modern car.

This journey started in the unofficial capital of the Goldfields, Coolgardie, where so many hopeful men came in search of a fortune. 

And, with the help of the Golden Quest Trail app and a guidebook, I have embarked on an adventure that taught me more about the Goldfields and its history than I ever expected.

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