Skimpies in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia
My friend Ingrid arrived in Kalgoorlie back in 2010 looking for mining work. Staying at a local backpackers, she was invited, “Do you want to go to the pub tonight? They have skimpies on!” Ingrid thought skimpies was a type of local fish, a dinner treat. Imagine her surprise when she turned up at a bar and discovered that skimpies were not a meal, they were scantily clad barmaids!
Skimpies have long been a tradition in Kalgoorlie, a town where the miners work hard and play hard. After a long shift slogging away, they often liked nothing better than a cold beer in hand and a barely dressed woman to serve them that beer.
In Kalgoorlie, I saw signs at some of the pubs advertising their skimpies. The pub I went into looked like a normal bar with pool tables and sports on the TV. These girls are mostly Fly In Fly Out (FIFO) workers, often from interstate. They come because the money is great.
I had the opportunity to interview one of the girls. Laura is a stunningly gorgeous young woman, in her mid 20's. She was covering more than I thought they would, and the rule is that there is no nudity allowed. No nipples, butt cracks or genital area must be visible. Laura had on a tasteful black bra, satin and lace underwear, stockings and waist high suspender belt. There was more skin covered than you would see on a woman in a bikini at a beach.
Laura is new to this type of industry. She was working in a day care environment but lost her job early in 2020 due to COVID. At a party in Perth that had a skimpy, it was suggested that she give it a go. Laura said that she was very nervous the first time as it was in front of friends, but she is more comfortable now and enjoys the work.
A jug is passed around during their shift, and patrons make a donation. Usually between $5 - $10 per person, sometimes $50. If they don’t have cash on them, Laura carries an eftpos card reader for a swipe donation. Once the pass around is completed, the skimpy will change into a more revealing outfit for a while. Yet, the dress code of no nudity etc. still stands.
The girls get tipped well, some can make an extra $300 - $1000 a day, depending on their service. They are paid to be extra attentive to the customers. Some of the miners are depressed or may have had a bad day at work. A cold drink and a bit of attention from a pretty girl can lift their spirits. It can change their mood for the better. Contrary to some opinions, the girls are not prostitutes. They are barmaids and must be able to serve drinks and chat to patrons.
The girls pay for their flights to and from Kalgoorlie and their costumes. Laura said that she had always liked lingerie but that her wardrobe has definitely expanded since doing this work. Honey Birdette is her favourite lingerie brand.
I chatted with a couple of blokes there and asked their opinion of the skimpies. One young chap said, “I didn’t come in here specially to see the skimpy, but it doesn’t hurt to look.”
There are signs up around the bar stating no phone use, and no photographs without permission. I am grateful to Laura and the management of the bar for their permission to photograph Laura and her stunning outfit.
When in Kalgoorlie, pop along into a bar and check out the skimpies, have a chat with them and realise that they are here to do a job and keep the tradition alive.