Jonatan Lassa

Senior Lecturer in Humanitarian, Emergency and Disaster Management, Dr. Ing. / PhD - Disaster risk governance

Registered to supervise postgraduate research


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Personal profile

Research interests

I am an interdisciplinary social scientist. Recently, I was awarded: "Top Research in the Field of Emergency Management by the Australian Research Magazine 2023"; And the "Science and Health Editor's Choice Award 2022" for contributions to science-based journalism focusing on disasters and health in The Conversation (ID) in 2022.

My research focuses on the broader dimension of climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, crisis management, and humanitarian studies. Since 2016, I have taught and supervised students on the interdisciplinary dimension of humanitarian emergency and disaster management at Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Australia. Prior to the current roles, I served as a Research Fellow in a S$ 1.5 million project on climate change impacts on key commodities in leading food exporting nations at the Center for Non-traditional Security Studies, RSIS, NTU Singapore, during 2014-2016. These two posts mark the beginning of a serious academic career after 15 years of real-world professional experience with NGOs/INGOs, United Nations organisations, the private sector, think tanks and consulting industry, and academic organisations.

I completed my PhD at the University of Bonn while based at United Nations University in Bonn, Germany. I also completed one winter-semester postdoctoral fellowship at Ash Center, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA, in 2011. I later received Willis Re Postdoctoral Research Fellow position at the Institute of Catastrophic and Risk Management (ICRM), Nanyang Technological University, in 2011/2012. My postdoctoral research at ICRM recently received an award as Best Paper 2017 in Maritime Policy and Management (entitled Risk Assessment Framework for Exposure of Cargo and Ports to Natural Hazards and Climate Extremes. Maritime Policy & Management, 44:1-15).

My contributions to global disaster studies include macro and micro-level disaster governance,  complex network theory application in disaster management, institutions and institutionalisation framework in disaster reduction. Through academic papers and consultancy work, I am promoting a new concept: networked ecosystems approach humanitarian studies and disaster risk reduction. My doctoral research has been one of the first systematic studies on disaster governance, looking at institutions and governance practices in disaster reduction in countries worldwide. In addition, I recently worked on a global assessment of political will on disaster risk reduction using a quantitative approach; Understanding the evolution of disaster risk management policy from selected counties using longitudinal observation; How post-disaster need assessment framework informing long term recovery policy; Seismic mitigation culture and practices from the grassroots; the use of complex network theory application in disaster studies, institutions and institutionalisation of disaster risk reduction, disaster recovery and food system under changing climate. See my current research projects!

At the moment, I have been working on a critical realist approach to disaster policymaking, disasters and utopia, systematic analysis of disaster code/laws (Indonesia and Australia), global mapping on political will for disaster reduction, governing climate and disaster loss, social network analysis and network theory application in climate adaptation and disaster management, multi-hazard + conflict early warning system, humanitarian reform, humanitarian technology, institutional vulnerability assessment, local disaster management policy reform, global and regional humanitarian ecosystems, NGOs/CSOs network structure, urban climate governance, disaster education, food system under climate change and critical realist approach to disaster policymaking.

Prospective HDR Students

Please check out CDU's Higher Degree by Research website for more information about the PhD application procedure and scholarships. I am open to new ideas about PhD projects. If you already have a draft proposal and a scholarship, feel free to approach me for more conversation. Examples of my ongoing PhD supervision project include:
- Disasters and deaths: social-cultural perspective (started 2023)
- Mobile communities and disaster resilience planning (started 2023)
- Disaster communication, intercultural translation, and language technology (started 2022)
- Small-island community resilience and vulnerability mapping and indexing (started 2022)
- COVID-19 and smallholders in Indonesia (started 2021)
- Australian Military Response to Disasters and Climate Risk in the Pacific (started 2019)
- Legal and governance dimension of multi-hazard early warning system in Indonesia (started 2018)

Completed PhD project supervision:
- Adapting smallholder livestock systems to climate change: an empirical study of village-based water buffalo production and development in the Philippines (2018)
- Economic and social impacts of extreme weather events on the agricultural sector in the lowlands of Nepal (2020) 

I Welcome PhD students for the following topics

  • Disaster policy and utopia
  • Climate change, environmental migration and human trafficking
  • Disasters impact on migration and human trafficking
  • Social exclusion, risk, and disaster vulnerabilities
  • Understanding long-term recovery trends in Southeast Asia [at >30 years timescale]
  • Long-term observation of community-based and/or community-led disaster risk management practices in ASEAN.
  • Disaster risk governance and decentralization in Southeast Asia including Myanmar and Indonesia
  • Using network theory to understand disaster governance in Asia - Pacific
  • Social network analysis and crisis leadership
  • Governing climate change adaptation in urban / rural settings as well as agriculture and livestock sectors
  • Seismic culture in Indonesia
  • Global thinkers and theorists on disaster studies
  • Object-oriented ontology and critical disaster/risk studies
  • Disaster policy making and reform in developing countries
  • Governing big-data and complexity methods for disaster risk reduction
  • Disaster and religion
  • Politics of Crisis and disaster communication 
  • Cultural institutionalism and disasters


Education/Academic qualification

PhD, Institutional Vulnerability and Governance of Disaster Risk Reduction: Macro, Meso and Micro Scale Assessment, Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelm Universität Bonn

Jul 2007Mar 2011

Award Date: 1 Mar 2011

Master, MSc Environment and International Development, University of East Anglia

Aug 2004Sept 2005

Award Date: 30 Sept 2007

External positions

Adjunct Research Fellow, NTS, RSIS, Nanyang Technological University

Jun 2016 → …

Senior Advisor, Institute of resource governance and social change

2014 → …

Senior Research Fellow, Resilience Development Initiative

2013 → …

Research Fellow, Earth System Governance Project

2010 → …


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