In the latest example of how difficult it has become for women in their late twenties and early thirties to find an eligible man in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, a dating agency has started sending busloads of single women out to country towns, where the ratio of men to women is far more favourable.
The weekend tours, named Thank Goodness He’s A Country Boy, involve eight hours of intensive speed dating at a country pub, where lonely farmers are introduced to single city girls.
Brie Petersen came up with the idea after visiting friends in the rural town of Mungindi in Queensland. During a night at the pub, the owner told her that he regularly received letters from single women in Brisbane and Sydney asking him to set them up with farmers. Similar pleas were being sent to the post office, he said.
“These women obviously needed help, it was simply a matter of putting the two groups in the same place,” Miss Petersen said.
The first tour, which took 50 Sydney women to the rural town of Tamworth was a success, with an “85 per cent pick up rate”, she said. More trips for the single women of Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth are on the cards.
The tours are the latest symptoms of the chronic gender unbalance in metropolitan and rural areas, which has already spawned a highly popular reality television programme, The Farmer Wants A Wife. The programme matches single women with farmers from far-flung parts of the country and after six series it has generated four marriages and three babies.
Bernard Salt, demographer and author of Man Drought, said the programme and the tours were so successful because over the past four decades young women had fled Australia’s rural towns and communities.
“The farmer does want a wife because there’s no single sheilas in the nearby towns,” he said. While women in the 1960s would marry a local man after finishing school, they now head off to the city in search of work, leaving the men behind, he said.
“As soon as that 18 year old girl leaves she upsets the gender balance in the town, because there are not enough marriageable women, and she also upsets the gender balance in Sydney because there is an oversupply of women in the inner city suburbs.
“The problem is writ large in Australia which is sparsely populated and vast so you get a shift like this and it makes a huge impact.” But for 29-year-old Sydney woman Bianca Wignall, one of Ms Petersen’s clients, it is a matter of quality, as well as quantity.
“Country men are more gentlemanly, they hold the door open for you and if they see you with an empty glass they will be the first to offer to get you a drink, they are more attentive.”