Noel Pearson comes from the Guugu Yimidhirr community of Hopevale on South Eastern Cape York Peninsula. He is an Indigenous Australian, land rights activist and a history and law graduate of the University of Sydney. He is Chair of the Cape York Group (CYG), an organisation promoting the economic and social development of Cape York, in North Queensland. Organisations within CYG include the Cape York Institute, Cape York Partnerships, Cape York Employment, Cape York Timber, Djarragun College and Djarragun Enterprises.
In 1990, Noel co-founded the Cape York Land Council and was Executive Director until 1996. In 1993, Noel acted as representative to the traditional owners in the first successful land claim. Following the Mabo decision of the High Court of Australia, he played a key part in negotiations over the Native Title Act 1993 as a member of the Indigenous negotiating team.
Since 1999, Noel has campaigned for Welfare Reform in Indigenous communities in the Cape and was instrumental in helping establish Apunipima Health Council and Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation. Noel has led much of the policy development of the Cape York Group, including the landmark “From Hand Out to Hand Up" which set the conceptual and policy foundation for the 2008 Welfare Reform Project, which was implemented in four communities in Cape York.
Noel’s goal is to enable Cape York’s Indigenous people to have the capacity to choose the life they have reason to value by reinstating the rights of Aboriginal people to take responsibility for their lives. Descriptions of these ideas can be found in Noel Pearson’s monograph Our Right to Take Responsibility as well as his numerous other published works.