Resettlement housing in the Philippines

The Humanitarian Frontiers Lab is a leading academic research group at the University of Sydney working to reduce disaster risk and build safer, more vibrant communities. Our work seeks to protect lives and promote human development by catalysing evidence on humanitarian and development programming through rigorous research.

The University of Sydney is one of the world’s top 45 research universities. Our staff are leading in creating new knowledge that is transforming our understanding of governance, infrastructure, economics, and social inclusion to reduce the impact of disasters and climate change. To do this, we’re leveraging interdisciplinary methods to generate evidence that drives action. We boast a large network of partners in Australia and internationally with universities, civil society organisations, and government agencies.


To protect lives and promote human development by catalysing evidence on humanitarian programming through rigorous research and outreach.


We envision a safe and prosperous world where all communities have equitable access to basic infrastructure services.

Our Model

We see settlements as increasingly complex socio-technical systems that are becoming ever more interconnected. Our research sits at the nexus of engineering and social inquiry, seeking to transform our understanding of how organizations and infrastructure can create a safer, more equitable world.


We believe in looking beyond the numbers to value the people behind data, using new methods to see problems differently.


We work at the cross-roads of engineering and social inquiry, applying innovative tools to make sense of complexity.


We are committed to bridging the academic and practice divide, ensuring that research translates to policy and action.


  • Ethical

    We value integrity. We protect the people that participate in our research and ensure we are in accordance with relevant legislation, codes and guidelines.

  • Partnership

    We believe we can accomplish more together than alone. We value diversity and new ideas in teamwork. Ingenuity comes from collaboration, not isolation.

  • Rigor

    We produce defensible research and quality evidence.

  • Outreach

    We recognize the importance of connecting with practice. We are committed to disseminating our research to ensure that it is understood, applied, and present in global dialogues.

  • Accountability

    We accept responsibility for our work and own the outcomes. We are committed to delivering agreed upon outputs in a timely manner.

  • Learn by Doing

    We believe the best path to learning is by dipping our feet in the water. We treasure lifelong learning, brought about by continuing to dive into the unknown.

Research Themes

Timber roof truss under construction

Humanitarian Shelter and Settlements

Shelter is a central part of our daily lives. It offers protection, fosters livelihoods, and acts as a social hub. Our work looks at how shelter and settlements assistance can improve recovery after disaster.

Construction laborers place block walls for a new house

Disaster Risk Reduction

Disasters affect millions of people each year and pose a significant threat to development efforts. Our research is exploring the links across disciplinary boundaries to understand how to reduce disaster risk and foster resilient communities.

Poorly constructed houses sit next to ocean

Climate Change Adaptation

Climate change poses an unparalleled threat to human settlements. Our research is looking at adaptation of infrastructure, and the organisations delivering these services, in ensuring a sustainable future that is equitable for all.