Article | Updated 5 years ago

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Kalgoorlie has always had a reputation not only for its gold but also its girls.

Adrienne Lowth, ABC 1999

Prostitutes appeared on the streets of Kalgoorlie from its earliest days. Japanese and later French women were targeted as the police sought to stamp out the ‘social evil’. In 1896 two Japanese women were sentenced to two months gaol for allowing their Hannan Street house to be occupied by prostitutes. The two policemen had watched ‘grossly immoral conduct’ through a spy hole in the hessian clad building.

In 1902 west Brookman Street was re-gazetted as Hay Street and became the famous ‘red light district’ of Kalgoorlie. Prostitutes had to register with the police, live in the brothels where they were employed and could not socialise with the local community. The regulations were enforced by local police in cooperation with brothel madams, despite a lack of formal authority. 

It was not until 1995 that prostitutes were allowed to live in private accommodation and be part of the community. Today, the brothels in Kalgoorlie have become part of the local tourist economy with new-look brothels offering day time tours before the evening’s business begins.

So they’re sort of like half stable doors, you know, and girls would open up the top half and sit on a chair behind them, you know, and the customers would come up and, you know, talk to a girl on each doorway.

Mary-Anne Kenworthy, Kalgoorlie brothel owner