Skimpies IN THE AGE OF #METOO
Is our State’s most famous ‘Wild West’ mining town finally bowing to the pressures of a changing modern world?
IT is just past 8pm on Tuesday and in the cosy corner bar of the Kalgoorlie Hotel, Malibu and Tori are holding court in a manner only two well-versed “skimpy” practitioners can.
The place is heaving with its eclectic clientele — grubby, high-viz workers straight off site playing pool, a handful of ogling quick-witted bar flies and a gaggle of out-of-town businessmen doing a bad job of not staring at the semi-naked ladies serving them pints of One Fifty Lashes.
Welcome to Diggers and Dealers.
There would be few gatherings like it in the world, where players from around the globe hustle and spruik, chase the deal of a lifetime, or hope to back a winner that could mean a new BMW in the garage, a getaway house in Tuscany or the kids’ school fees in the bank.
On one side, you have prospectors, geologists and wannabes who explore, discover and dream their tenement, outback lease or small cap mine could be snapped up by the big boys.
On the other, you have the sharp-shoed money men, the slick-haired merchant bankers from Sydney, fund managers and Melbourne stockbrokers who finance, gamble and sniff out the elusive “ten-bagger”, a rare deal in the sector that can return 10 times the initial capital investment.
And in the middle you have the world-famous gold town whose reputation for wild bars and even wilder women sees it open its arms to the hard-working, hard-drinking mining delegates every August.
But the times they are a changin’.
The #MeToo crusade has finally arrived in the dusty outback town, 550km east of Perth.
This year professional services firm EY declared it would not be holding any of its event functions at the famous Palace Hotel, one of five historic main-street pubs and regular skimpy outlet.
It has joined the likes of New York-based investment banker Goldman Sachs, which along with McKinsey & Co has in the past backed out of the event due to the scantily clad bar girls they fear lurk in every dark corner.
The organisers are caught in the middle, delicately balancing the desire to keep the event real, raw and in iconic Kalgoorlie, while acknowledging changing social expectations.
They point to one of the biggest gatherings at this week’s three-day expo — the Women in Mining function, hosted by the WA School of Mines, which attracted more than 600 delegates.
They rightly argue the mining industry has been as active as any in creating more career paths for women.
So, are skimpies an anachronism, a relic that demeans women, or are the big city-based companies showing once again the huge multi-level divide between city and bush.
Before I ask the skimpy in front of me those very questions, I ask her name. “Do you want my skimpy name or my real name?” Your skimpy name. “Malibu . . . but my real name is Destiny,” she said, deadpan, before bursting out laughing. “That’s a joke,” she said.
Malibu is 26 and has a partner “back home”.
She is pretty, has had breast-enhancing surgery, which she constantly refers to, and is originally from Queensland.
She came to Kalgoorlie to earn some money, nothing more. She is not a prostitute. She describes herself as a “freelancing showgirl” and wants to earn as much as she can.
As part of her short-term contract, she gets her transport expenses from Perth paid, along with free accommodation and meals at the hotel she is working in.
She will pocket roughly $2500 for the week and tend bar from 5pm to 10pm.
While she flirts, wriggles and writhes as she pours the next one, she says she has yet to encounter any issues with drinkers overstepping the mark.
Malibu has a time limit of two years in this job and wants to work herself into a situation where she is “financially safe”.
“It’s OK for women and men who have high-paying jobs and degrees to look down their nose at us, but we’ve got bills to pay as well. Heaps of skimpies have kids and stuff they’ve got to look after, so bugger them,” she said.
“The more people outlaw it (skimpies), the more people will want it . . . it’s like drugs, it’ll just go underground.”
Her bestie, Tori, 22, agrees. For some extra money, she also does a breakfast shift at another pub, serving up bacon and egg sandwiches and the like.
“If people don’t want to look at us, well don’t come to this particular bar, or don’t come into places where skimpies are working,” she said.
“To be honest, I really don’t know what the fuss is about.
“There are plenty of other places that don’t have skimpies.”
While we’re talking, a drinker walks around the bar with an empty beer jug, declaring that if the crowd can whip together $200, the girls will change into something even more revealing — an
It’s OK for women and men who have high-paying jobs and degrees to look down their nose at us, but we’ve got bills to pay as well. Heaps of skimpies have kids and stuff they’ve got to look after, so bugger them. Kalgoorlie skimpy ‘Malibu’
impossibility from where this writer is sitting.
Within two minutes, the jug returns brimming with $20 notes.
All that goes into the back pockets of Tori and Malibu — if they had them. Instead, it’s straight into their purses behind the bar. Down the road at Hannans Hotel, Leah is working the afternoon shift.
At 32, she does not do topless because “I’ll leave that to the younger girls”.
Her customers are locals, and she occasionally heads east from her coastal home for two-week period to earn money to pay her bills.
“I came to Kal 12 years ago to give it a go, and I’ve worked at the Criterion, the Exchange and Boulder over the years,” she said.
Self-deprecating, heavily tattooed with an easy laugh, Leah has four girls — 11, 9, 6 and 4.
While her pay rate is not as much as her younger colleagues, she is happy she can occasionally access good money.
“People appreciate the work I do and I love the guys here. They are very protective of me and kind and we have a good laugh when I’m here,” she said.
She will go back to Geraldton soon with about $4000 in the bank, “enough to keep me and the kids going for a while”.
Holly Phillips is general manager of City Living for the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder. Proudly Kal born-and-bred, her background is in regional development, community relations and corporate affairs.
Her job is to come up with innovative strategies to bring workers — and more importantly, families — to the Goldfields.
There are hundreds of jobs here, she says, across a broad range of sectors.
“It’s more than just a mining town,” Ms Phillips said.
“People mistakenly consider it red-neck, rough and remote, but we have a wide variety of cultural and sporting organisations, and a very lively arts scene.”
She also points to the 50 parks that pepper the historic city and the fact Kalgoorlie now has the highest per-capita income in the country.
I ask her about the skimpies and the growing kerfuffle they seem to cause every year.
“It’s just part of Kalgoorlie,” she said.
“I don’t really think about it, to be honest — but for some women it’s good for them to be earning an income, I
Rolled gold: Kal’s pubs still hire skimpies like Leah, inset above, and Malibu and Tori, main picture. Right: Holly Phillips.