Noel Pearson is the Chairman of the Cape York Group (CYG). CYG is a recently formed holding company that is in the process of acquiring the Cape York Institute, Cape York Partnerships, Cape York Aboriginal Australian Academy and Djarragun College.
Pearson was born on 25 June 1965 in Cooktown, North Queensland. He is the youngest son of Glen Pearson from the Bagaarrmugu clan on the upper reaches of the Jeannie River, East Coast, Cape York Peninsula and Ivy Pearson (formerly Baird) from the Guggu Yalanji peoples on the upper reaches of the Bloomfield River, South East coast, Cape York Peninsula.
He attended primary school at the Hope Vale Mission, Cape York, where he lived with his family throughout his early years. As a young boy he was sent to Brisbane to attend St. Peters Lutheran College as a boarder, where he attended until completing his matriculation.
Pearson then enrolled in a history degree at Sydney University, Sydney where he completed a History and Law degree. His History thesis, based on his home community Hope Vale, has been published in “Maps Dreams History”, by the History Department of the University of Sydney.
He has been strongly involved in campaigning for the rights of Cape York Aboriginal people and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Cape York Land Council in 1990.
The Land Council was the first organisation established by Cape York Aboriginal people to work with and fight on behalf of Traditional Owner groups for the return of their homelands. Successful outcomes from this include the return of traditional lands known as Starcke and more recently Silver Plains.
Pearson also worked on both Native title cases including the historic Wik decision. The resulting High Court decision is recognised as one of the most important Native Title cases in Australian History.
Throughout the past twenty years he has been involved in many key Indigenous issues including as a member of the Indigenous Negotiating Team during the drafting of the Native Title Act in 1993.
Pearson also participated in the drafting of the Cape York Heads of Agreement for which he and other Cape York leaders were signatories on behalf of Cape York Aboriginal people. This historic agreement ensured an effective cooperative platform between Indigenous, Conservation, Mining and pastoral interests in Cape York.
He was elected Chairman of the Cape York Land Council from 1996-1997 before resigning. He still acts for the Land Council in an advisory capacity from time to time.
In 2004 Pearson became the Director of the Cape York Institute, a new regional organisation sitting at the nexus of academia, policy formation and community engagement and providing policy oversight for other Cape York oriented organisations.
He has led much of the policy development of the Institute including the landmark “From Hand Out to Hand Up” which set the conceptual and policy foundations for Cape York Welfare Reform.
In 2009, Pearson published a collection of his writings, “Up From the Mission: Selected Writings” and a Quarterly Essay titled “Radical Hope: Education and Equality in Australia”.