The saga of the worst little whorehouse in Australia
Film tells story of farmer’s ill-fated attempt to make ends meet
Saturday 16 May 2009
Mounting debt, falling produce prices and a crippling drought are just some of the problems facing Australian farmers. However, few choose the route of Chris Rohrlach, a sheep farmer who branched out by opening a brothel in his small country town.
It seemed a good idea: Inverell, in northern New South Wales, had never had an establishment of that kind – not a legal one, anyway. Mr Rohrlach and his business partner, Danny Poulsen, consulted their wives, who gave their blessing with the proviso that "any funny business with the girls and you're out the door".
But the men quickly ran into opposition. Inverell is in a conservative Christian heartland. The pair discovered that mustering cattle and shearing sheep did not equip them to manage a brothel. And they could not attract suitable staff to their venue, First Choice Stress Relief, since prostitutes were flocking to booming mining towns in other parts of Australia.
Their story is told in a new documentary, A Good Man, to be screened at the Sydney Film Festival next month. The director, Safina Uberoi, said it was an irresistible subject. "They [the Rohrlachs] were having a baby and opening a brothel at the same time. You've got to ask, can a good father and a loving husband be a successful pimp?"
Chris Rohrlach is the "good man" of the title. Seventeen years ago, his pregnant girlfriend, Rachel, had a stroke that left her quadriplegic. She gave birth to a healthy boy and Mr Rohrlach married her and has looked after them both, spurning the option of full-time residential care for his wife.
It was when a second baby was due that he realised he had to find a way to supplement his income. Over "quite a few beers", he and Mr Poulsen, a fellow farmer, hit on the brothel idea. "We were looking to diversify and it seemed a good proposition," he said. "It was quite legal and unlike farming, not dependent on the climate."
He was unprepared, though, for the local opposition. Protest meetings were held, and The Inverell Times ran headlines such as "Moral decay" and "Brothel will defile town". The families involved were ostracised. "I was starting to think I was the devil incarnate," Mr Rohrlach said. "Our names were all over the paper with 'brothel' written next to them, which was hard to take.
"We also had a lot of support, with people saying there's a need for it in the community, and it's better the men pay for it than run down Girl Guides."
After a lengthy battle, he and Mr Poulsen won planning permission. The brothel, built from scratch, was "very nice, quite flash", with polished timber floors, a solid pine reception desk and four "working rooms", one with a spa, another with mirrored walls and ceiling. But they "simply couldn't attract the right kind of staff".
"We had some really nice older ladies and there was a big demand for them," Mr Rohrlach said. "But we couldn't attract enough young, attractive women to make the business a success." He was unsuited to the work. He hated the late hours, and felt uncomfortable around the staff and customers. Less than a year after it opened, First Choice Stress Relief closed. Mr Rohrlach lost $150,000 (£75,000). "It was definitely an experience, it was an education, and I'll be able to tell the grandchildren I used to own a brothel," he said. "But from a financial perspective, it was a spectacular failure."
Mr Rohrlach, who has resumed farming, hopes the documentary is not screened in Inverell.
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 SAG Awards: Fake applause track interrupts Reese Witherspoon
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Asteroid narrowly scrapes past Earth: how to watch the closest space rock for decades as it flies by
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Investigo: My client, a global leader in providing ...
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: WEST LONDON - An excellent new opportunity wit...
£8 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A Florist Shop Manager is required to m...
£15000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading supplie...