Howard Springs, the NT town with a serious ‘sheila shortage’

Despite the 'bloke bonanza', local florists in Howard Springs are keeping busy.

Despite the 'bloke bonanza', local florists in Howard Springs are keeping busy. Photo: ABC

If you are a Territory bloke, chances are you might be spending Valentine’s Day on your own.

For years, the NT town of Howard Springs has been experiencing a drought of a different kind – women. A “sheila shortage”, if you will.

The latest census data shows the Darwin rural area has a ratio of 274.7 men to every 100 women, compared to a Territory-wide average of 105.9 men to every 100 women.

So why is there such a bloke bonanza?

“I assume with the workers’ camp nearby there probably is [a women shortage]” local Sue D’Arcy said.

Local resident Jane Thomas, agreed, and said she wasn’t too impressed with what was on offer.

“Have you seen the men that hang around?” she said.

“I think there could be a bit more entertainment, where the men dress a bit better than the hi-vis uniform.”

But the shortage is not just evident in Howard Springs.

Centres like Darwin City and Weddell are both experiencing a ratio of more than 125 men to every 100 women.

How do we keep young women in the NT?

Charles Darwin University demographer Andrew Taylor believes restoring the gender imbalance needs to be viewed in tourism terms.

He said greater educational opportunities and the ability to raise a family could entice women back to the territory.

Howard Springs resident

Local Monica Farrow doesn’t mind the shortage, because it “keeps her husband honest”. Photo: ABC

“We need to extend the stay of early-career females to get them through to their mid career before they’re more likely to stick in the population,” he said.

It is hoped a $103 million tourism stimulus package to entice people back into the territory will do just that.

“We’ve seen a one-third decline in female arrivals and one-third increase in departures,” Chief Minister Michael Gunner said.

“We have to address this and we will in the next stage of our population plan.”

Though the shortage may give the impression NT men are unlucky in love, others say it is a “good way to keep husbands honest”.

“There’s not really anywhere for him to look, which is great,” said Howard Springs local, Monica Farrow.

“But I go fishing with my husband, so he wouldn’t go looking anyway.”


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