The Cape York Agenda


Noel Pearson developed The Cape York Agenda in 2005, six years after he wrote the ground-breaking reform paper “Our Rights, Our Responsibilities”.


The Cape York Agenda was a radical blueprint for the transformation of Indigenous communities through acceptance of personal and community responsibility. Pearson drew on the philosophies of Nobel Laureate author Amartya Sen’s concepts of freedom of choice, and was inspired by his work with Elders and their aspirations for change.

The ultimate goal of The Cape York Agenda is to ensure that Cape York people have the capabilities to choose a life they have reason to value. We believe that if individuals and communities take responsibility for their lives, opportunities open up and self-reliance flourishes.

At the heart of the Agenda is the belief that passive welfare destroys incentive, self-reliance and self-respect. It robs the individual of the right to take responsibility for his or her own life. On the passive welfare pedestal of skewed incentives, there’s no reason to work, build capability or strive for a better future. Social norms in welfare-dependent communities disintegrate, discouraging work and education. Welfare becomes a permanent state.

Click here to download The Cape York Agenda.