With veteran batsman Damien Martyn announcing his shock retirement earlier in the day, despite initially being named in the side, the Australian selectors were forced to reconvene and select a revamped squad for the Test, which starts Dec 14 at the WACA Ground.
Symonds and West Australian Voges came into the 13-man squad, while Martyn and speedster Shaun Tait dropped out of the squad that assembled for the second Test in Adelaide.
Queensland's Symonds hasn't played Test cricket since April, but his all-round talents will have him favoured to play in Perth ahead of Voges.
Symonds last played against South Africa in Johannesburg, making 29 and 4 and claiming one wicket.
The 31-year-old has generally struggled in 10 Tests, averaging 19 with the bat and 45 with the ball, but is a recognised star in one-day cricket.
The selection of Voges, a middle order batsman and part-time spinner, came from left field, even catching the 27-year-old by total surprise.
Voges was fielding in the Lilac Hill festival match and still trying to process the news of Martyn's retirement when he was summoned from the field for reasons he was unsure about.
"I was in the field, out on the boundary and (Western Australian Cricket Association chief executive) Tony Dodemaide tapped me on the shoulder and said 'you've been substituted'," a bemused Voges explained.
"I thought I was in trouble, (and then) I had a phone call saying I was in the 13.
"It has all happened pretty quickly and it has been pretty amazing."
Voges has scored two Pura Cup centuries in four innings this season, with 320 runs at an average of 160.
He has played 23 first-class matches, for 1414 runs at 44.18, and holds the record for the fastest domestic one-day century (62 balls).
Voges played against England earlier in the tour, making 39 from 32 balls for the Prime Minister's XI in Canberra.
Just a month ago, Voges was dropped from the WA side to make way for returning Australian players after the Champions Trophy, despite scoring a century in his previous game.
Now he finds himself in the Australian squad due to the retirement of one of those players.
"I've played a fair bit with Marto and he's been fantastic for me and my development," Voges said.
"It is a shame his career has come to an end, but it has presented an opportunity."
Voges said making his Test debut in front of his home crowd would be "a dream come true".
Chairman of selectors Andrew Hilditch said the retirement of Martyn offered a perfect opportunity to blood a young player.
Former Australian captain Ian Chappell noted that the big loser from the timing of Martyn's retirement was Symond's Queensland teammate, Shane Watson.
Chappell said Martyn's decision had opened the door for Symonds to claim the spot that was being eyed by Watson, who is expected to be available for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG on December 26.
"If Damien takes the decision one Test later, it is going to be perfect for Shane Watson," Chappell said.
"Watson is not fit for the Perth Test and somebody else gets the chance before him, so Shane Watson is probably the one guy not too thrilled with the decision."
Ricky Ponting (capt), Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Mike Hussey, Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Brett Lee, Glenn McGrath, Andrew Symonds, Adam Voges, Stuart Clark and Mitchell Johnson.