A Pilbara councillor’s comments on two remote communities within the Shire he represents are “not reflected by the council or the Shire”, according to the local government’s chief executive. In a discussion during the Shire of East Pilbara ordinary council meeting on Friday, July 28, Medal of the Order of Australia recipient Cr Lang Coppin criticised the Punmu and Parnngurr communities. His comments came as the council decided whether to postpone convening the August 25 ordinary council meeting at the communities to a date following the local government elections in October. During the discussion, Cr Coppin said that both communities were expensive and they had poor rates of education and employment. “Could I just make another comment and it’s probably not going to go down real well with a lot of people,” he said. “Everybody is going on like these communities are the greatest things since sliced bread for the people out there. “You look at the school attendance rates, you look at the rates that come out of there that go and get into the workforce — they’re appalling and they cost a bloody fortune to run.” Council agreed to change the location of the August meeting to Nullagine and suggest that the newly elected council consider when to hold the postponed meeting in the remote communities. The Shire stated that it decided to postpone holding a meeting within the Western Desert Communities until after the Local Government Elections in October to ensure the incoming council had an opportunity to better understand the issues faced by the people in the region. The decision was passed with six votes to one. Shire of East Pilbara President Anthony Middleton said Cr Coppin’s statements did not reflect those of the rest of the council or the Shire. “The councillor’s comment was made during a discussion of the location of a future council meeting. His views were overwhelmingly rejected in a vote of the Council: six votes to one,” he said. “The Shire of East Pilbara has made an increasingly concerted effort over the years to create a culture of understanding and respect with our First Nations people, which is reflected in the motion that was strongly supported by council on July 28, 2023. “We have been, and will continue, advocating at a State and Federal level for funding to provide vital improvements to the Aboriginal communities in the Shire of East Pilbara.” Cr Coppin said his criticism was based on his experience in the East Pilbara. “I’ve seen it, I’ve lived with them all my life and I’ve seen the desert before they were even out there,” he said. “Everybody thinks the communities are the greatest thing for them, you know they don’t teach them much and they don’t come out with a job they all just go on the system.” The Shire of East Pilbara adopted its reconciliation action plan in November 2022 which seeks to create meaningful relationships, enhance respect, and promote sustainable opportunities for Aboriginal and Torress Strait Islander people. Cr Coppin received an OAM in 2013 for his service to the East Pilbara community.