Rhetta Chappell

Griffith University
Helping Queenslanders build a more equitable, sustainable, and data-driven future by transforming data into actionable insights, improving decision making, and maximising positive impact.

Rhetta Chappell


Rhetta’s work with data provides outstanding value by providing the evidence needed by Queensland communities to solve problems and thrive. She leads a team of data analysts who generate insights from contextualised data to improve local, state, and federal decision making. For example, she helped provide the evidence used to keep Queenslanders safe during the pandemic by distilling complex concepts into data-infographics used by:
Queensland policymakers to determine when and where to implement targeted snap-lockdowns, and their impact. 
Federal policymakers to decide how best to manage international arrivals and understand the complex impacts of boarder restrictions.
As a female leader in a male dominated field, Rhetta is inspiring. Within her field, she is an outstanding leader and mentor, but through her active and genuine engagement with the general community, her impact is far broader. For example, Rhetta:
Created the podcast “Show me the Data” to make data topics accessible and engaging to the public. 
Engages with school, industry, and community events both locally and abroad.
Promotes understanding and take-up of data science at all levels, teaching programming, data-analysis, data-visualisation workshops - from pre-school to Phd students.


As a data scientist Rhetta leads multi-disciplinary teams to optimise policies and targeted support. Rhetta’s work provides multiplicative benefits by breaking down informational silos and providing the necessary contextualisation for service providers and community leaders to tailor solutions and improve program delivery and overall impact. Her work delivers a multitude of benefits to Queenslanders and throughout Australia by:
1. Championing the role of digital technologies and data innovation. By practically demonstrating how to harness the power of data science, AI, big data, and ethical frameworks, Rhetta’s work optimises decision making whilst protecting the rights of individuals and organisations, for example:
o Rhetta led her team to collect the citizen-centric data and conduct analysis for the Guardian’s Australian 2022 Federal Electorate explorer dashboard. It was enormously successful, 250k+ unique Australians engaged with the dashboard before the election, enabling them to cast more informed votes, view here
2. Optimise service delivery. Modelling and advocating for the importance of secure data-sharing across Queensland government departments to improve overall impact, for example:
Early into the pandemic, as a part of an all-of-government consortium formed by Queensland Health, Rhetta led 2 of 5 teams analysing anonymised mobile phone data to demonstrate how sharing access to critical data-assets improves service delivery, program impact, and value for money,  saving the state millions of dollars and improving the customer experience. 
By analysing mobility patterns during past natural disasters, Rhetta’s team provided QFES the insights and tools needed to improve future decisions and save lives. Motivated to raise the profile of this ground-breaking work, Rhetta wrote conversational articles published to engage the public (~1500 unique views). 
Rhetta led her team to provide the data-curation, data-analysis, and data-visualisation tools and transfer the insight gathering and data-storytelling skills needed by data-practitioners and decision makers in the Redland, Gold Coast and Lockyer Valley city councils. By putting the right data in the hands of the right people, her work helped local families access the services they need to thrive (e.g., maternal, and mental health, housing).

3. Increasing community data-capability and data-literacy. Through specialised training, skill-transferring, and mentoring, Rhetta’s work encourages and inspires young and underrepresented cohorts to be curious about data. 

“Rhetta has been with RIDL since the beginning and her ability to actively listen to clients and work strategically, breaking down silos and collaborating across sectors to design engaging and actionable data solutions is outstanding. Her ability to strategically identify and connect with stakeholders, build partnerships, and confidently lead a team has grown while at RIDL. I regularly receive feedback about how inspiring and motivating it is to work alongside, and for, Rhetta. She has an exceptional eye for user-interface design, data visualisation and a knack for data analysis and storytelling. As a result, I rely on Rhetta to distil complex concepts and ideas quickly and effectively for varied audiences.”
- Dr Tom Verhelst (Director of the Griffith Data Trust and the Director of RIDL)


Role Model

Through her popular podcast, work and engagement activities with day-cares, schoolteachers, university students, academics, and governments, Rhetta is providing the practical how-to of data and highlights a diverse range of local leaders working using data to help their communities thrive. 

Rhetta is a role model, who’s values-based approach to leadership and mentoring and outstanding community engagement with audiences, ranging from toddlers to Professors, encourages all people to explore and seize opportunities in the world of data..  Motivated by her drive to help people improve their decision making and passion for telling data-informed stories, and promoting diversity in STEM, Rhetta is a regular panel member and speaker at industry, academic, and government conferences. Fostering conversations about how industries and governments are grappling with, and harnessing the rapid acceleration and proliferation of AI, and data-driven decision making. 

Data Science is one of the top 25 emerging occupations (Australian Government, 2022), and only 30% of data professionals identify as female (LinkedIn News, 2023), and as the industry grows, so does the need for representation. To attract a more diverse workforce, Rhetta encourages organisations to clearly communicate the purpose, importance, and tangible benefits that data professionals bring to critical decision-making at all levels. 

Rhetta continually strives to be a role model for females wanting to explore the world of data and consistently encourages everyone she works with to own their contributions, and adopt ways of confidently and effectively demonstrating, quantifying, and communicating their abilities and impact. By exposing young talent to the world of data (e.g., mentoring, running programming and analytics workshops for students and the public) Rhetta hopes she can provide opportunities that act as a springboard into a lifetime of interesting and impactful data related career opportunities:
Rhetta has mentored 20+ interns.

“Rhetta, you have taught me so much with regards to data analytics and you have without a doubt ignited my passion to continue this route in the future. Since I had started statistics at Griffith, I was always hesitant in taking it up in the future but, you have definitely confirmed for me that this is the path I want to take once I have completed University in 2022. “ 
-  Ms Angelica Stavrou – RIDL Intern and Jr Data Analyst reporting directly to Rhetta (2021 – 22)

Rhetta consistently leads her team in a transformational manner, modelling, and championing an ethical, strengths-based, and sustainable data science framework. 
“Rhetta is an incredible role model who I look up to as a young female in the field of data science. Despite lacking the initial skills for my job role, I was able to adapt and quickly pick up the skills needed under Rhetta’s guidance and support. She also never ceases to amaze people with her passion of learning.”
– Ms Jessica Chen, (studying IT and Data Science, reports directly to Rhetta)



Rhetta continually goes above and beyond her role to get people genuinely and productively engaged with and excited about data (e.g., delivering data analysis and visualisation workshops to up to 120+ students). Rhetta’s engagement activities have made a valuable contribution to Queensland communities by connecting the role and function of data using practical examples, providing access to training resources, tools, and code (e.g., delivering geospatial programming workshops to IT student associations), and providing mentoring (20+ interns). 
In 2021, Rhetta identified an audience and started a podcast called, Show Me the Data (SMTD). SMTD provides access to practical examples of how organisations can think more strategically about data and shares conversations with a diverse range of experts about how our lives interact with, are influenced by, and create data. SMTD had hundreds of unique full-listens in its first week, and season two is launching mid-2023. SMTD showcases the range of careers and outcomes data skills can provide and features many prominent female leaders making a difference in Queensland.  
“Thank you for providing the platform and opportunity to discuss the need for market and non-market services for transparency, the need for data to be centred around the citizen and the role data has in storytelling across generations and the need for contextualisation. What you are doing with this podcast is very important.”
- Daniel O’Halloran – Director of Finance and Economic Analysis (SMTD season 2 podcast guest)

Rhetta’s impact both in and outside the scientific community has been far-reaching. To listen to or learn more about Show Me the Data, please click here.

Few people change their mind based on a number, but by crafting and telling compelling stories underpinned by data, Rhetta is engaging Queenslanders in the world of data, improving decision making, and driving lasting positive change. Like data science, cyber security is a field in desperate need of more diversity. Recent major data-hacks have made us all painfully aware of just how critical cyber security is, and to keep Australian’s information safe, we will need a diverse and skilled cyber workforce. To proactively address this issue, Rhetta identified synergies and connected partners from academia, the employment services and cyber security industries to collaborate on a grant and successfully secure $2million+ in federal funding. The grant will fund a collaborative and inclusive approach to providing cyber security training, internships, mentoring and leadership training to women and people from culturally and neurologically diverse backgrounds. 

By engaging with the community, Rhetta is an exemplar of what it means to be a female leader and role model in STEM.  She does this by enthusiastically dedicating her own time to providing guidance to people from all ages and backgrounds. Rhetta inspires young girls, by giving workshops at her son’s day-care on the building blocks of data, and women by developing and delivering specialised data-analysis, programming, data-storytelling courses, and workshops:
2 statistics courses 100+ students (2021, 2022)
25 data speeches/industry panels 5000+ attendees (2018 -2023)
4 webinars 1000+ viewers (2017 – 2023)

You might be interested in