First voice to parliament decided after votes counted

Savannah Meacham |

South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher has celebrated the election.
South Australian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Kyam Maher has celebrated the election.

The first people to make up an Indigenous voice to parliament in Australia have been elected with the South Australian advisory body set to start mid-2024.

Forty six people have been elected to represent six regions across South Australia as part of the first voice advisory body which will liaise directly with the highest levels of government on decisions affecting First Nations residents.

It comes after Australia’s failed referendum to enshrine a Voice to Parliament in the Commonwealth constitution.

Despite this, the South Australian government opted to push ahead with its plan.

More than 2000 First Nations voters from across the state went to the polls on March 16 to elect the representatives in the first election of its kind in the nation.

That is just 10 per cent of eligible voters but the government said it was due to the election being the first of its kind in Australia and that it would take time to build awareness and engagement in the community.

“South Australia’s First Nations Voice is well on track, with strong interest in nominations and a successful first election,” Aboriginal Affairs Minister Kyam Maher said in a statement on Friday.

“We will look to strengthen engagement ahead of the next Voice election that will take place at the same time as the state election.”

The number of voters is similar to the figures of participation to elect the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) in the 1990s.

Induction sessions for the 46 members will be held next month before meetings start and presiding members are elected by the regions.

The South Australian government expects the local and state voice to be up and running by mid-2024.

Legislation enshrining the SA Voice passed the House of Assembly in March, 2023.

The bill sets out six regional voices across the state, each with seven representatives to be directly elected by their local communities, however, the Central region, covering metropolitan Adelaide, will have 11 members because of the larger population.

Each local voice will have two presiding members who will act in the state Voice to Parliament.

The state voice will be an advisory body to the South Australian parliament to advocate for Indigenous Australians’ concerns and raise ideas from each community.

It will have no right to veto legislation nor prevent government from undertaking any of its duties.