In a move that may herald a worsening of black-white relations, the country's most prominent and respected Aboriginal campaigner, Noel Pearson, has resigned from politics. The young and gifted man, whom many thought could one day become Australia's first black prime minister, dramatically resigned his post as head of the Cape York Land Council, a highly-influential land rights group, on Wednesday. He cited deep disillusionment and exhaustion as the causes. The 31-year-old lawyer leaves a black leadership vacuum of serious proportions - a crisis exacerbated by the suicide of Aboriginal leader Rob Riley in May, and news that prominent black activist Lois O'Donoghue will resign from the chair of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission at the end of the year. In a scathing attack on 'the patrician classes' and 'people in drawing rooms' for their lack of understanding of Aboriginal issues, an angry Mr Pearson said that Aborigines were tired of repeating the same arguments. 'It is now up to the rest of Australia to say that reconciliation is important to them,' Mr Pearson said. Articulate and consensus-seeking, Mr Pearson has been the Aboriginal leader that White Australia related to most. But his resignation is a symptom of the fact that beneath the rhetoric of reconciliation, black and white in Australia are increasingly pursuing divergent political agendas. The worsening relations can be partly attributed to the failure of Prime Minister John Howard's conservative Government to establish a rapport with Aborigines. Mr Howard has been criticised for making deep cuts in funding for Aboriginal programmes, and his attempts to streamline the Native Title Act have been seen by Aborigines as an attack on their land negotiation rights. Meanwhile, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator John Herron, shocked the peoples' leaders last week by speaking at the launch of a book that argued for a partial rehabilitation of the so-called 'assimilationist' policies of the 1950s - those associated by many Aborigines with the abduction of black children for rearing in white homes. Both Mr Howard and Mr Merron have been accused of having only lukewarm commitment to black welfare, which remains in a grim state. A report released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that the average black income is A$14,000 (HK$85,400) a year against a national average of A$20,000, and blacks have a life expectancy of 15 to 20 years less than whites. Black unemployment currently stands at about 25 per cent.