Community response to disasters in Indonesia : Gotong Royong; a double edged-sword

Mardiasmo, Diaswati & Barnes, Paul H. (2015) Community response to disasters in Indonesia : Gotong Royong; a double edged-sword. In Barnes, Paul H. & Goonetilleke, Ashantha (Eds.) Proceedings of the 9th Annual International Conference of the International Institute for Infrastructure Renewal and Reconstruction, Queensalnd University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, pp. 301-307.

View at publisher (open access)


Indonesia is a country spread across wide-ranging archipelago, located in South East Asia between two oceans, the Indian and the Pacific. Indonesia is well known as an active tectonic region because it lies on top of three major active tectonic plates: the Eurasian in the North, the Indian Ocean-Australian in the South, and the Pacific plate in the East. The southern and eastern part of the country features a range of volcanic arcs, volcanic mountains, and lowlands with 500 young volcanoes, of which 128 are active and thus representing 15% of the world’s active volcanoes.

In the period 2002-2007, approximately 1782 disasters occurred, with hundreds of thousands of lives lost and billions of rupiah in losses incurred: (Floods - 1183 instances, cyclones - 272 instances, and landslides - 252 instances). Of these, the 2004 Aceh tsunami and the 2006 central Java earthquake (impacting predominantly city and suburbs of Yogyakarta) were the most significant. Even so, disaster management experts believe lessons learnt from the two major natural disasters needs to be formalised into laws and institutions before another disaster occurs, regardless of the type of natural disaster – i.e. Volcano eruption or landslide; as opposed to tsunami or earthquake.

Following in the wake of disasters occurring in Yogyakarta, many of its community members responded by banding together as one, with the determination of rebuilding its villages and cities through the spirit of ‘gotong royong’. The idea of social interaction; in particular as a collective, consensual, and cooperative nation; has predominantly formed the ideological basis of Indonesia’s societal nature. Many Indonesian terms cohere to this ideology, such as: ‘koperasi” (cooperatives as the basis of economic interactions), ‘musyawarah’ (consensual nature in decision making), and ‘gotong royong’ (mutual assistance). ‘Gotong royong’ has become a key cultural operator in Indonesia, in particular In Jogjakarta. Appropriately so as ‘gotong royong’ is depicted from the traditional Javanese village, where labour is accomplished through reciprocal exchange and the villagers are motivated by a general ethos of selfishness and concern for the common good.

The culture of ‘gotong royong’ promotes positive values such as social harmony and mutual reciprocation in disaster-affected areas provides the necessary spirit needed to endure the hardships and for all involved. While gotong royong emphasises the positive notions of mutual family support and deep community level activity there is a potential for contrast against government lead disaster response and recovery management activities especially in settings where sporadic governance mechanisms exist and transparency and accountability in the recovery process of public infrastructure assets have been questioned. This paper thus questions whether Gotong Royong is a double-edged sword, and explores the potential marriage of community values and governance mechanisms for future disaster management planning and practice.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

376 since deposited on 22 Jul 2013
115 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 61482
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: CEDM, Conference title: Risk-informed Disaster Management : Planning for Response, Recovery & Resilience
ISBN: 9781921897733
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > SOCIOLOGY (160800) > Urban Sociology and Community Studies (160810)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (160000) > OTHER STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY (169900) > Studies of Asian Society (169903)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Emergency & Disaster Management
Current > Schools > School of Civil Engineering & Built Environment
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Law
Current > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Health Law Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Current > Schools > School of Law
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2013 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 22 Jul 2013 01:31
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2015 14:43

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page