When the No vote won in last year’s referendum, Dawn Likouresis says it was like someone had hit her.

“When they said No I was so emotional. I cried and I thought ‘this is wrong’,” she said.

“It just stopped us in place.”

But Ms Likouresis is still putting her hand up, nominating as a candidate in South Australia’s Voice to Parliament.

South Australia’s First Nation’s Voice passed Parliament last year, and means the SA Voice now exists in state laws, not the Constitution as proposed by last year’s failed referendum.

Dawn Likouresis works with young people and wants to see their voice represented.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Ms Likouresis said it was a chance to speak up in a way her ancestors could not.

“I had a good mother that pushed for me to do schooling. We weren’t allowed to do schooling in town, we weren’t allowed to speak to non-Indigenous people,” she said.

“You had to have a permit to go in and out.

“That’s the life I grew up in so, being on the Voice, I’m the voice for those people who never had that chance.”

Ms Likouresis works with children and young people and said she would like to see them represented to address issues she saw within her community of Port Augusta.

“Lack of culture, lack of education,” she said.

“It’s so frightening when I see young kids I was working with and then thinking they’re going to go, there’s a big house out there. We don’t want them to go there.”

SA divided into regions to form the Voice

To form SA’s Voice, the state has six electorate-style regions.

Ms Likouresis is one of 13 people vying for seven positions in region three, which covers Port Augusta, east to the Flinders Ranges and to the New South Wales border.

Another candidate in that region is Lavene Ngatokorua.

Lavene Ngatokorua wants to shine a spotlight on domestic violence and suicide.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

“What happened with the referendum, it just seems like the conversation has stopped,” Ms Ngatokorua said.

“Whereas South Australia is giving us the opportunity to go on a new route, but still giving us a Voice but within our own state.”

Ms Ngatokorua is the CEO of the Davenport Community Council.

She said she hoped having a Voice to Parliament would help address issues around domestic violence and suicide within her community.

“It just seems like nobody is listening because we’re just talking to people in offices and I don’t know if the ministers are actually hearing from those offices what’s happening on the ground,” she said.

“Just on our community alone, we’ve had a murder, we’ve had suicides, and that’s in the last year and that seems to be just silent and yet there’s a crisis happening.

“We need to get that on the table, we need to get governments talking about it.”

Hopes the Voice will help fund programs to keep people out of jail

Darcy Coulthard has spent decades working with First Nations people in the criminal justice system.

He said he was running for the Voice in the hope something could be done about the high rates of incarceration and recidivism in his community.

“I worked (in the Port Augusta prison) back through the late 90s and early 2000s and we had some programs the inmates were doing,” he said.

“They haven’t had many reoffending and some of them have gone into jobs and that’s the sort of outcomes we need to get.

Darcy Coulthard hopes to reduce reoffending after years of working in prisons.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

“They’ve got to make the parliament realise that there is a problem and put some more funding aside so these projects can happen.”

Aboriginal knowledge ‘should be common knowledge’

Candace Champion is running in the Voice elections and hopes it will help elevate Aboriginal culture.

“I want First Nations people to be visible, not just in newspapers in the back sections or in the sport sections,” she said.

“I want us to be able to be seen and heard for the issues that matter the most.”

Candace Champion is a nominee in the Flinders and Upper North region in the SA Voice election.(ABC News: Brant Cumming)

Ms Champion wants Aboriginal culture to be taught to non-Indigenous people.

“The First Nations language doesn’t just belong to First Nations people,” she said.

“It’s an Australian language. It’s out first languages and we should embrace that as part of our nationality, our identity.”

Hopes it will help, but not the only solution

While candidates hope being a part of the newly-formed Voice to Parliament will help them address the challenges facing their communities, they acknowledge it will not be the only solution.

The inaugural body will run for two years, before new elections in 2026 bring it in line with the state’s four-year general election terms.

“There is a fear, but this is new and I think as this goes along there’s two years to see how this is going to work,” Ms Ngatokorua said.

“It’ll be challenging, but it’s a challenge that I believe we as a people are ready to face.”

People on the Voice will be able to speak in parliament and have regular meetings with politicians and head bureaucrats.

The candidates are hopeful what they have to say will be heard.

“It’ll be good, but then I’m a little bit sceptic,” Ms Likouresis said.

“Are they really going to listen to us? That’s what I want to know.”