Purpose: This paper aims to identify key factors for a contextualised Systemic Risk Governance (SRG) framework and subsequently explore how systemic risks can be managed and how local institutional mechanisms can be tweaked to deal with the complex Indonesian risk landscape. Design/methodology/approach: Using a case study from Palu triple-disasters in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, the authors demonstrate how inland earthquakes in 2018 created cascading secondary hazards, namely tsunamis, liquefactions and landslides, caused unprecedented disasters for the communities and the nation. A qualitative analysis was conducted using the data collected through a long-term observation since 2002. Findings: The authors argue that Indonesia has yet to incorporate an SRG approach in its responses to the Palu triple-disasters. Political will is required to adopt more appropriate risk governance modes that promote the systemic risk paradigm. Change needs to occur incrementally through hybrid governance arrangements ranging from formal/informal methods to self- and horizontal and vertical modes of governance deemed more realistic and feasible. The authors recommend that this be done by focusing on productive transition and local transformation. Originality/value: There is growing awareness and recognition of the importance of systemic and cascading risks in disaster risk studies. However, there are still gaps between research, policy and practice. The current progress of disaster risk governance is not sufficient to achieve the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015–2030) unless there is an effective governing system in place at the local level that allow actors and institutions to simultaneously manage the interplays of multi-hazards, multi-temporal, multi-dimensions of vulnerabilities and residual risks. This paper contributes to these knowledge gaps.