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dont panic


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‘Death, disasters and Covid-19 – the hidden emergency for global health and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) sectors to confront’

Gerard Finnigan (Deakin University)

IKEA Foundation Humanitarian Leadership Scholar 

PhD topic – Preventing premature mortality from natural disasters

This seminar will present an analysis of critical challenges for the global health and DRR sectors to address to reduce the death toll and impact from natural hazard disasters, including CoVID19, in the face of unprecedented humanitarian demand. The discussion will centre on four central themes within the evidence based analysis. This includes the contrasting state between perceived verses underlying causative risk from natural hazard threats, such as CoVID19. Secondly, the impact of the misalignment of the ‘risk triangle’ between health, DRR and disaster management actors globally. Thirdly the discordant nature of the SFDRR global measurement framework with efforts to reduce deaths in FCV countries, and finally the critical flaw within the SFDRR measurement indicator on counting mortality and its implications for the world. The seminar will present innovative scenarios and realistic solutions for health and DRR sectors to develop and advance to overcome each specific issue and discuss the leadership required to deliver each solution. 

About Gerard Finnigan
As an epidemiologist Gerard has designed and implemented emergency, disaster and humanitarian health programmes in over 20 countries and led multi-disciplinary technical teams respond to complex humanitarian challenges in nations across Africa, south Asia and the Pacific. He is presently undertaking research on approaches to reduce global mortality from natural hazard disasters at the School of Medicine and School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University in Melbourne.

26 March 2020

10.30am (ACST)


Link to Recorded Session

‘Crisis Leadership from around the world: a brief reflection on Covid-19 Pandemic’

Dr Jonatan Lassa (CDU)

Senior Lecturer - Emergency & Disaster Management

PhD topic - Disaster Risk Governance 

Crisis leadership often deals with the questions of how public leaders act in time and how their decisions are made under uncertainty. In this seminar, Dr Lassa will provide his work in progress on the dramaturgical perspective on crisis leadership – an observation of crisis leadership in Asia Pacific, while highlighting some brief examples of leaderships displays during COVID-19 pandemic from various continents. He will also share his views on why global leaders failed to timely address the COVID-19 crisis and how can the leaders fix COVID-19. This talk will also highlight how crisis can be manufactured by (potential) leaders for various reasons including gaining approval ratings in the middle of the crisis. 

About Dr Jonatan Lassa
Dr. Jonatan A. Lassa is a Senior Lecturer in Humanitarian, Emergency and Disaster Management at Charles Darwin University (CDU) Australia. Prior to CDU, he served as a Research Fellow at the Centre for Non-traditional Security Studies, RSIS, NTU Singapore during 2014-2016. He completed his PhD at the University of Bonn while based at United Nations University in Bonn, Germany. He also completed his post-doctoral fellowship at Ash Center, Harvard Kennedy School, Cambridge, MA where he also received a grant to attend Harvard’s Executive Education on Crisis Leadership in 2011. He later received Willis Re Postdoctoral Research Fellow position at the Institute of Catastrophic and Risk Management (ICRM), Nanyang Technological University in 2011/2012. 

02 April 2020

10.30am- 11.30am (ACST)


Link to Recorded Session

‘Disaster-environment-climate risk reduction in a rapidly urbanising world’

Associate Professor Akhilesh Surjan (CDU)

Research and Theme Leader - Humanitarian Response & Disaster Management Studies

World is urbanizing rapidly while also experiencing plethora of challenges posed by natural hazards, environmental degradation and climate change. COVID-19 further illustrates how global mobility not only connects cities better but also exposes them to risks of unprecedented scales. United Nations estimated that by mid of this century, urban dwellers will constitute two-third of the global population. Cities, as clusters of population concentration, on a very small percentage of global land, brings both opportunities and challenges. This session will discuss how disaster-environment-climate risks will be influencing human settlements of our times. Without making risk reduction a top priority, UN’s 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to “make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable“ will remain a distant dream. 

About Aspro. Akhilesh Surjan
Associate Professor Surjan is proactively engaged with the issues of disaster-environment-climate risk reduction, global change and sustainability in the context of human settlements. He has served as a Lead Author of the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and also as Contributing Author of the United Nation’s Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction. In addition to associating with esteemed universities, Dr. Surjan has also successfully worked with the United Nations, government and non-government organizations in the Asia-Pacific region. Currently, Dr. Surjan is Associate Editor of an International journal Progress in Disaster Science (Elsevier) and Series Editor of book series Disaster Resilience and Green Growth (Springer). He also served as Editor of Sustainability Science (Springer) during 2013-19. 

09 April 2020

10.30am (ACST)


‘Crisis and Complacency: Why the cycle must stop with Covid-19’

Miranda Booth (CDU)

Lecturer in Humanitarian, Emergency in Disaster Management Studies

PhD topic – Effective Foreign Military engagement in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief: Australia in the South Pacific


In September 2019, the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (see GPMB Annual Report) warned that a highly lethal global pandemic was likely, and that the world was not prepared. Three months later, patients in the city of Wuhan, China, began to seek medical help for pneumonia-like systems; the first cases of today’s global pandemic. Did the world prepare for COVID-19?

This seminar introduces the concept of epidemic and pandemic preparedness, before investigating the gap between policies for preparedness, and their implementation by countries around the world. Using the historical examples such as Malaria, SARS and Ebola, the seminar demonstrates that countries have tended to react to outbreaks by following a cycle of ‘crisis’- investment in the immediate response - and ‘complacency’ – by reducing investment once the immediate health risks have passed. Reasons for these cycles include a lack of financial capacity, political will, competition for resources, risk perception and cognitive bias.

COVID-19 suggests that frameworks that emerged in the aftermath of such crises, such as the Health-Emergency Disaster Risk Management Framework (2019), have failed to overcome these challenges. Worryingly, previous leaders in the arena of global health security – such as the United States– now seem to be stuck in a repetition of complacency. The economic, social and political consequences are increasingly severe.

The seminar concludes by highlighting the lessons of COVID-19 and offers recommendations to break the cycle of crisis and complacency that has accompanied pandemics.

About Miranda Booth

Miranda is the coordinator of the Bachelor of Humanitarian and Community Studies and PhD candidate in the Humanitarian, Emergency and Disaster Management Studies program. Her research interests include international relations, strategic studies, foreign and defence policy, political interest and humanitarian action, humanitarian civil-military coordination, and measuring the effectiveness of humanitarian aid. She holds awards from the Coral Bell School of the Asia-Pacific, graduating with bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the Australian National University and a Master of Philosophy from the University of New South Wales. She has certificates in humanitarian practice awarded by organisations including the United Nations, Geneva Centre for Security Policy and Redr. Miranda has held positions at the University of New South Wales (Australian Defence Force Academy) and the University of Melbourne. She previously acted as an advisor for the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education, and as a rapporteur for the EU Centre on Shared Complex Challenges. She is an avid wargamer and has high level experience across human rights and international law environments, spanning from Canberra to The Hague.

16 April 2020

10.30am (ACST)


'From cyclones to COVID-19: Disaster management from a Yolŋu perspective

For a number of years, Yolŋu researchers in Arnhem Land and the Ground Up team at Charles Darwin University, have worked collaboratively on research projects associated with disaster resilience and emergency management. This presentation draws together two threads from this work – stories arising from previous disaster management events and stories of the current situation surrounding COVID-19 and its impacts in East Arnhem Land. We present accounts delivered by a number of senior Yolŋu CDU researchers and lecturers, noting differing ways that emergencies are enacted within biomedical and traditional practices, as well as new forms of collective organisation emerging around disaster response. Drawing on these accounts, we suggest that it is productive to recognise resilience within these communities as a collective achievement involving not only local Indigenous people or emergency services, but which arises in appropriate forms of partnering and collaboration being fostered between the two.

30 April 2020

10.30am (ACST)


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