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The Relational Insights Data Lab (RIDL) is part of Griffith University, based at Nathan Campus. Rooted in the Griffith University ecosystem we leverage on research expertise across all projects to ensure they are executed with scientific rigour. RIDL is a not for profit organisation. We endeavour to make our solutions publicly available and share our code whenever possible to make it available for re-use.

RIDL’s data-rich environment provides new opportunities to fast-track innovative solutions that address long-standing urban and regional problems by using “place”, rather than discipline or agency, as the data linking framework. With the right data ecosystem RIDL can improve our understanding of these problems, which will in turn improve policy making, service delivery, and effective business and regional development.


Director: Dr Tom Verhelst

Dr Tom Verhelst is a leader in data analytics, digital technology, and IT management with a mission to democratise data for decision intelligence. As the Director of Griffith Data Trust (GDT) and Relational Insights Data Lab (RIDL) at Griffith University, he aims to establish a nationally relevant information ecosystem.

Tom focuses on creating data analytics products, and commercialising ML & AI data solutions, all to enhance decision-making for business and government clients. He helps shape GDT’s and RIDL’s strategic direction as a pivotal resource for storing, managing, and analysing large, sensitive datasets, crucial for human and environmental development across a wide range of sectors. He offers a platform for data-driven decision-making and initiative evaluation.

Data Scientist & Partnerships Lead: Rhetta Chappell

Rhetta Chappell is the Data Science and Partnerships Lead at Griffith University’s Relational Insights Data Lab (RIDL). In this role she leads a growing team of high-performing data analysts and provides strategic direction on complex, mission and data-driven projects for industry, government, and academic partners. Her role as a speaker at the Royal Statistical Society Conference in Scotland highlights her standing in the field. Rhetta’s work is not just about data analysis; it’s about creating sustainable, impactful solutions aligned with global initiatives like the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Rhetta’s strengths are in strategic relationship building, stakeholder engagement, the design and implementation of robust statistical analyses, data storytelling, engaging information design, and the building of actionable and innovative data solutions. After completing a degree in Anthropology, Rhetta has gone on to complete post graduate qualifications in statistics, data science and machine learning and is currently completing her MBA at Griffith. Rhetta also hosts a podcast about using data to support thriving communities called, Show Me the Data.

Data Analyst: Nicholas Pittman

Nicholas Pittman is a Data Analyst at the Relational Insights Data Lab. In this role, he designs and implements complex solutions for clients with tricky problems and interesting datasets. Using a broad range of tools including R, Shiny, JavaScript, and PowerBI, Nicholas’ focus is not just on the how these models or data is important, but why.

A graduate of Griffith University in International Business, Nicholas previously worked in client services and UI/UX design roles and is completing further study in IT. Outside of work, his hobbies include video gaming and studying German.

Data Linkage Analyst: Jessica Chen

Jessica Chen is our dedicated Data Linkage Analyst who combines a strong interest in data engineering with an exceptional ability to merge and link complex datasets. Skilled in a variety of tools including UiPath, Python, R, RShiny, PowerBI and even Adobe’s suite of tools for editing the Show Me the Data podcast, Jess is known for her willingness to learn and bring new ideas to the forefront. This extensive skill set and adaptive approach significantly enhance our data strategies, establishing Jess as a versatile and invaluable member of our dynamic team.

Pursuing a double degree in Economics and Data Science, Jess demonstrates a steadfast commitment to continuous learning and professional growth. This academic endeavour complements her work, providing a richer understanding and broader perspective to our data-driven projects. Outside of work, Jess enjoys watercolour painting and gaming.

Policy and Compliance Coordinator: Charlotte Owona

Charlotte Owona is our Policy and Compliance Coordinator. In this role, she is committed to ensuring adherence to policies and legislation while maintaining the highest standards of consistency, quality, and transparency in all our processes.

After completing a degree in History and Politics, Charlotte furthered her education with postgraduate study in law. Prior to joining our team, Charlotte worked as an auditor and recruitment coordinator in the UK. These experiences equipped her with a deep understanding of policy coordination and regulatory compliance. Outside of work, Charlotte enjoys exploring national parks across Queensland.

Data Lab Coordinator: Shiela Villanueva

Shiela Villanueva is our Data Lab Coordinator. She brings over 10 years of experience in the IT industry and 6 years in telecommunications engineering to the RIDL and GDT teams and has previously worked at the top telecommunications company in the Philippines as a Network Engineer where she ensured the smooth operation of the nation’s primary SMS and voice data services, safeguarding round-the-clock reliability. Abroad in Singapore, Shiela managed and maintained global SMS delivery networks, cementing her status as a key player in network operations.

In Australia, Shiela has navigated through various private and government institutions as an IT Support Analyst and Network and Systems Administrator, accumulating a vast spectrum of expertise, from user support to strategic project management. Shiela also holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT), the leading Engineering and Architectural School in the Philippines and is ITIL certified.

Strategic Community Insights Lead: Sherena Zanus

Currently on secondment at Restacking the Odds

Sherena Zanus is our Strategic Community Insights Lead.  Her work focuses on working with communities to ensure that they are supported to collect, access and interpret evidence required to build strong and cohesive communities, in an environment which is complex, has multiple stakeholders and is responsive to community challenges.

In the last 12 years Sherena has worked in the Community Services sector and has a strong background in service design, community development and contemporary practice, strategic planning, outcome measurement, evaluation, data collection and analysis. Sherena is able to synthesis information quickly and communicate complex issues to a broad range of audiences, she believes that innovation is change that adds value and works to support stakeholders through the use of data and evidence to identify, implement and monitor innovative and contemporary solutions to complex issues.

Sherena combines her experience of the how to of using data in place and her deep understanding of the community services sector to drive positive change for and with communities. Fun fact: originally from the UK, Sherena worked for 10 years in the Fragrance and Flavour Industry where she trained as a nose!


Griffith University is deeply engaged with all levels of government, the not-for-profit, private sectors and the community, working together for mutual benefit.

This partnership creates an exciting opportunity to be at the forefront of regional innovation through data, leveraging our respective strengths and our strong partnerships to be a national and international leader in harnessing data to build innovative, dynamic, regions of the future.


RIDL team at Logan Get Together

Data for the people, the RIDL team at the Logan Get Together September 2019. 

Our director, Tom at Nanjing Tech Week a whirl wind event encompassing 100 simultaneous events across Nanjing China.

RIDL director at Nanjing Tech Week

It is never too early to have fun with data, Rhetta our Data Analytics Web Developer sharing the building blocks of data literacy with a class of 3-6 year olds.

Data Literacy

It is important to have fun along the way, at RIDL we enjoy working together with our partners enabling them to turn insights into actions and outcomes. By making data matter, we help support thriving communities across Australia.

Relational Insights Data Lab team
RIDL at Research Bazar

Rhetta with her winning researcher poster at the ResBaz conference.

RIDL team at the 2019 Mt Druitt ChangeFest conference.

Rhetta and Sherena manning the RIDL booth at the 2019 Mt Druitt Change Fest in NSW.

Advanced R Course

Rhetta Chappell with mentor Bill Venables at the Centre for Applications in Natural Resource Mathematics (CANRM) Advanced R programming course at UQ.

Rhetta & Sherena with the members of the Community Service Data Alliance (CSDA).