The Pink House

Madam Carmel welcomes you into Australia’s oldest working brothel

The Pink House The town of Kalgoorlie is a relic of the goldrush, built on ‘gold, girls, and grog’. In its midst is Questa Casa, the oldest working brothel in Australia. Run by the exceedingly proper Madam Carmel, the brothel is struggling, not helped by the charismatic yet troubled working girl BJ. Their unique stories tell of two women at odds with the modern world and epitomise the thorny debate surrounding the sex industry.

The Producers

Claire Haywood is a writer, director, and producer, originally from Western Australia who juggles passion projects with working for commercial television. She wrote and directed ob doc series Taxi School (SBS 2009) and Kulka, a documentary about radical Indigenous leader Gordon Briscoe. Claire’s Executive Producing credits include the quirky, comedian-driven series, Unreal Estate; Storm Season; and Gold Coast Cops. Her Series Producing credits include the heart-warming Crash Test Mummies & Daddies, the edgy, Logie Award-winning ob doc series Kings Cross ER 1 and 2, and Territory Cops. Claire wrote and produced Kalgoorlie Cops, a series which won an Astra Award in 2012. As co-director of Wonderland Productions with Kingston Anderson, Claire is passionate about telling stories in new and powerful ways that inspire and entertain.

Sascha Ettinger Epstein is a documentary filmmaker known for her dark, edgy, Australian stories. She has won the AFI Award for Documentary Direction twice, among other national and international awards. Her first documentary, Painting with Light in a Dark World, which earned various accolades for its depiction of street photographer, Peter Darren Moyle, was the beginning of a career-long exploration of beauty in darkness. Her following films The Oasis, and Playing in the Shadows, continued the same theme. She also made Wall Boy, a short drama based on a true story of a young male prostitute forced to work at The Wall. Sascha’s lighter moments include commercial TV series such as Recruits, Kings Cross ER, and Kalgoorlie Cops, as well as advertising work such as global webisode series, 2020 Vision.

Making The Film

I encountered Madam Carmel and her long-standing lady of the night, BJ while working in Kalgoorlie. I had heard only vaguely of the strip's infamous past as the sex capital of the West and had no idea brothels are technically illegal in Western Australia. Creative collaborator, Claire Haywood and I chose to focus on the personal fortunes and fragile relationship of two very unique women against the backdrop of changing political currents and social mores. We operated basically as a skeleton crew because of our low budget, but this helped to create the intimacy the project needed. The film has morphed into something quite different from our original intentions; we could never have predicted what would befall our characters. We hope to shine a light on the complexities and paradoxes of politics and law enforcement as they continue to impact the women who work in the sex industry in WA. The Pink House’s future trading may be uncertain so we are proud to have preserved its story for posterity.

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