Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

Low Life | 2 May 2009

Bad trade

Kalgoorlie, Western Australia

Yesterday my friend Digger and I spent the afternoon touring the brothels of Kalgoorlie, an old gold and nickel mining town in the middle of nowhere. In more prosperous years Kalgoorlie had as many as 18 houses of ill-repute, but now there are just three. The global economic downturn has dealt Kalgoorlie a solid blow, though locals are expecting things to pick up again, and soon. We spent an hour at 181 Langtree’s — motto: ‘The girls are yum at 181’ — a new and elaborately themed brothel operating with just two working girls at the moment, but six more, they told us, were starting work on Anzac Day.

Prostitution is traditional in Kalgoorlie. In the heady gold-rush days, girls would come from the coast on camel trains — from Perth a gruelling 18-day trek. According to one version of local history, some were convinced that they were coming out to work as waitresses, and when they learned that they were instead expected to sell sex from tents to queues of sweaty gold prospectors, they committed suicide. Another, perhaps more masculine version, has it that the money to be made was so fantastic that girls eagerly flocked to Kalgoorlie from all over the world.

At 181 Langtree’s, the current rate is £100 for half an hour or £150 for the full hour. A hot shower and a medical check-up are compulsory. You may be refused entry, the advertised rules state, ‘if you are too out of it on drink or drugs’. And no kissing is allowed. Apart from that it’s Liberty Hall.

Once you’ve selected a girl, you choose your theme. There’s a bedroom called the Great Boulder Shaft, for example, designed to resemble a mining tunnel from one of Kalgoorlie’s most famous old gold mines.

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