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When she was 55, Carmel found herself a widow in Sydney looking for some way to make a living. Having previously run a chicken farm and boat hire business, her next move was less than conventional. In the 25 years since, the now year-old Madam Carmel has overseen Australia's longest running brothel, Questa Casa.
There she has seen all sorts of sex, drugs and even murder run through the town, as she wanders through the rooms of Questa Casa with her mechanical feather duster. Opening in the height of Australia's gold rush in the Pink House, as Carmel affectionately calls it, was an establishment located on Kalgoorlie's infamous Hay Street.
The brothel has run for over years just down the road from a police station, despite laws in Western Australia forbidding its operation. A new documentary, 'The Pink House', takes a look inside Carmel's empire. After winning Best Australian Documentary at the Sydney Film Festival, the doco is heading to limited screens in November, giving audiences a taste of the incredible stories behind the Pink House's doors.
Like Questa Casa, Madam Carmel is somewhat of an anachronism. Speaking with utter elegance, everything she says sounds like it came out of an etiquette book, even when discussing bondage. We've had triumph and tragedy here, and it's all encompassed. After her husband passed away, Carmel bought the Pink House after struggling to find work in Sydney where she had lived prior. Of course, once at 55 no one is going to employ you, and that's the state of the world today. The Madam weaves stories expertly; there's a rich purpose to everything Carmel says, from describing her first trip to "Kal" as she lovingly calls her adopted home, to joking about why "men give their willies a name" it's so a stranger isn't making all their decisions for them, she explained.
He said 14 years I asked if he had ever regretted it and he said, 'Never. Kalgoorlie is like a pair of old slippers. You put them on, you're very comfortable and you just don't want to take them off'.