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It's unlikely the GP was envisaging she would move to Kalgoorlie and purchase Australia's oldest brothel, but that's just what she did. Questa Casa, affectionately known as "the pink house", was established years ago in to service the cashed-up men from the gold mining boom.
Despite the fact that prostitution has technically been illegal in Western Australia since , the brothel has been an enduring fixture on Hay Street Once upon a time Questa Casa was turning customers away. Now they have nights where nobody crosses the threshold. Carmel, 70, has been the brothel's madam for 25 years now. With her posh accent, sensible pressed pants and conservative persona, she is an unlikely head dame for this remote house of debauchery.
New documentary The Pink House paints an affectionate portrait of Carmel and the last resident worker, BJ, who lives with Carmel out the back of the pink tin shed. Sascha Ettinger Epstein, the documentary's AFI award-winning director, first stumbled on the pair while working in Kalgoorlie on a different project. When you're a documentary-maker you're switched on, and I love weird eccentric people, and I thought, this is just bizarre. They just have this interesting, unusual relationship while they're attempting to survive all of the cultural, political, and social changes in a new era of sex work.
BJ and Carmel have their work cut out for them in modern day Kalgoorlie. But as the film progresses, we discover that BJ is her own worst enemy - despite Carmel's best efforts to keep her clean, BJ repeatedly goes off on drug benders. And things eventually take an incredibly dark turn.
Regardless of her obvious affection for the characters of the film, Ms Ettinger-Epstein tells Vice she believes the story of The Pink House is an important one to tell. People don't realise that prostitutes came from all over the world - being entrepreneurs - to make their fortunes on the gold fields, just as the prospectors and miners did.