Aunty Yvonne Agius has spent a lifetime fighting for Aboriginal rights and reconciliation.

The Kaurna and Narungga elder has a 40-year career as a public servant, sits on numerous committees and founded South Australia’s Aboriginal sentencing court.

Now, the 80-year-old is planning to nominate as a candidate ahead of the inaugural SA First Nations Voice to Parliament elections in March.

“I just feel that it’s time for us to have a voice,” she said.

“I’d like to see truth told within the community.”

Indigenous South Australians have until February 12 to nominate as candidates.(ABC News: Justin Hewitson)

Indigenous South Australians have until February 12 to nominate as candidates to fill 46 seats on six local Voices across the state.

Two elected representatives from each regional body will then be appointed to the state Voice, which will be tasked with providing direct advice to the SA government on issues which affect First Nations people.

“We’re out in the community, and they talk to us about things that are concerns, so that’s what I want to do — to bring things up in the parliament,” Ms Agius said.

“We’re not here to take other people’s land or houses … we just want to have a say in what we should do within our community.”

The elections will be held just months after Australians voted against enshrining a federal Voice to Parliament in the constitution.

More than 64 per cent of South Australians voted “No” at the October referendum, in a result so decisive that it took just 54 minutes of counting for the ABC to project the outcome.

Unlike the failed federal Voice, the SA government did not need to alter South Australia’s constitution to create the advisory body. Instead, it established the Voice by passing legislation through parliament.

“I would like to see more support for the Voice and if people have a concern, let’s talk about it,” Ms Agius said.

“Don’t just listen to what people are saying, make your own opinion.”

Call for ‘balanced’ representation on SA Voice

Kaurna elder Jeffrey Newchurch said he was undecided about whether he would nominate to stand as a candidate for the SA Voice.

He said he was focused on encouraging younger people to put their hands up.

“We’ve got younger generations that are coming to the fore and I think it’s very important with this Voice that we present that to the state government,” he said.

Jeffrey Newchurch says he doesn’t know if he will nominate to stand as a candidate.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

“It’s also on the back of my mind that we need elders … to get that balance with these younger people.

“My canvas is really to get younger people nominated first, make sure we’ve got good numbers with them and support them to create that mentor system.”

Young South Australian of the Year Tiahni Adamson, who descended from the Kaurareg Nations, is also encouraging young people to participate in the Voice.

She said it was important for South Australian Traditional Owners to be the first to nominate.

“I’d love to see local representation — Traditional Owners of the South Australian region being able to have their voices heard first and foremost,” she said.

“If there’s still representation that’s required from a youth perspective from outside First Nations lenses, then I would look at applying.

“I’d check with local First Nations Traditional Owners first to make sure that we have all of our local nations represented first, because this is their country and their land that we’re existing on.”

Ms Adamson said the SA Voice would be “instrumental” to ensuring First Nations people could provide direct feedback to the government.

“We know that our people represent our people the best,” she said.

Participation in SA Voice a ‘challenge’

Premier Peter Malinauskas said encouraging people to participate in the Voice elections process was a “challenge”, but he expected nominations and voter enrolments would increase over time.

“It’s the first time that anything like this has occurred in the state’s history,” he said on Monday.

“The closest example of something related to this was the Victorian effort regarding their Treaty organisation, which was Indigenous-led.

Peter Malinauskas says it is a “challenge” encouraging people to participate in the process.(ABC News: Carl Saville)

“The voter participation rate was difficult to get at a higher level and I expect there will be challenges that exist here by the nature of the remoteness of the communities.

“The real test of success in terms of the nomination process is making sure that all the spots are filled.”

More than 7,000 Indigenous Victorians enrolled to vote in the state’s First Peoples’ Assembly election in June — triple the number from the last vote in 2019.

SA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said the SA Electoral Commission and Commissioner for the First Nations Voice were travelling across the state, speaking to different communities about the Voice elections.

Kyam Maher says the SA Electoral Commission is consulting with communities across the state.(ABC News: Carl Saville)

“The reports I’m getting is there is a good level of interest from Aboriginal leaders across South Australia,” he said on Tuesday.

“Whenever you do something for the first time it takes time to gain traction.”

Only enrolled First Nations voters will be able to cast ballots in the SA Voice to Parliament elections.

Early voting opens on March 6, ahead of polling day on March 16.

The SA Electoral Commission expects results will be announced from March 25.