An Aboriginal activist and respected community leader, Noel Pearson came from the Guugu Yimithirr Aboriginal community at Hope Vale, a Lutheran Mission on Cape York Peninsula. He graduated with an honours degree in history from the University of Sydney. His honours thesis focused on the history of the Hope Vale Lutheran Mission from 1900-1950. Pearson completed a law degree in 1993.
In 1990 Pearson co-founded the Cape York Land Council where he was Executive Director until he resigned in 1996. He was also a legal advisor for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. He continues to advise a number of Indigenous organisations in Cape York, and advocates self-determination and land rights for Indigenous people.
Noel Pearson's Quarterly Essay, Radical Hope – Education and Equality in Australia, was shortlisted for the 2010 John Button Prize.