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If you had to guess where Australia's longest running brothel is, you'd probably wager Melbourne or Sydney. But you're wrong. You'll actually find it in Kalgoorlie, a desert town some kilometres inland from Perth. And that makes sense once you realise Questa Casa—or the Pink House, as the brothel is best known—was built at the height Australia's s gold rush. If history has taught us anything, it's that gold and brothels go hand in hand. But the story of the Pink House gets even more bizarre.
Even though sex work has been illegal in Western Australia since , the brothel has somehow managed to operate continuously since , on the same street as the local police station. Sascha Ettinger-Epstein explores this complex arrangement in her new documentary, The Pink House , which she shot while living at the brothel. We caught up with the Australian director to talk about the unique characters in the film, the politics of sex work, and an unexpected murder in the desert.
Sascha Ettinger-Epstein: It's a portrait of these two very curious, unusual women living together in this pink tin shed, which has been standing in the desert in Kalgoorlie since It's the longest running brothel in Australia and Madam Carmel has had the tenure of madam for the last 25 years.
BJ is her last working lady of the night. 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. How did you come across the Pink House? I'd heard it was this notorious outlaw town.
The producer had sold this show to Foxtel, claiming that there would be brawls and bikies and brothels but actually, at the time, there wasn't that much happening. I think I emerged out of there like three hours later just going, "Whoah, what a bizarre and fascinating woman and place. She's so sensual. She's got her own story to tell.