While we don’t claim to understand everything that happens on social media, Crikey watches these things closely enough to know that if something finds itself sandwiched between a hashtag and the word “fail”, its credibility is at stake. Josh Taylor today has a detailed piece about questions around the reliability of the data collected in the famously troubled 2016 census (which won’t be addressed properly until June, when an independent assurance panel will report on the completeness of the census). These issues, around the collection of information for the 2016 census (both practical and ethical), were widely reported.

This hasn’t stopped the majority of media outlets jumping on the “revelation” of the typical Australian (as well as the typical Victorian, Western Australian, Queenslander, etc) and reporting it without much reservation. The typical Australian in 2016 is, apparently, a married 38-year-old woman with two kids. The ABC  did a straight rundown of the stats, while news.com.au and The Guardian both did profiles of “Claire,” the name Australian Bureau of Statistics gave this typical Aussie — News represented her with a slightly creepy drawing, The Guardian with just a stock photo.

The nation’s newspapers decided “novelty” is not always a required news value and tracked down the typical member of their state. News Corp introduced us to people like …

Kerri from Adelaide!


And Emma in Victoria!


Fairfax took the information particularly seriously — Stephanie in New South Wales got the front page of The Sydney Morning Herald….


 … while Rachel in Victoria, got most of page six in The Age.

We met Pam in Canberra,  while in online-only we got Paul in WA and Brisbane Times called up State Education Minister Kate Jones because the Ashgrove MP was “pretty close to fitting the bill“. 

The Australian gave us a modest-in-the-circumstances profile of Mandy, the “quintessential Australian”.

Meanwhile, SBS ran a story critical of the very idea of a “typical Australian,” quoting an academic who said it was a “meaningless” term that “masks our rich diversity,” and interviewed a mixed-race, same-sex couple (one of whom had a disability) about the pressures they share with “typical” Australians. — Charlie Lewis