Raphael Hilbron

A Victoria University of Wellington law and arts graduate, Raphael has been a journalist and communications professional for over 20 years.

Raphael Hilbron
Raphael Hilbron

Full Name: Raphael James Hilbron

Degree: Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Arts majoring in English Literature

Current Role: Partner at SenateSJH Communications

Place of Birth: Auckland

Ethnicity: Samoan/Irish

Place in Family: First of three children

“Higher education is a tremendous privilege and a great discipline that opens many doors.”

“Learn to think for yourselves” our parents told us when we were growing up. And they backed that up by investing heavily in our education.

Mum and dad worked hard to send us to good schools and encouraged us to go onto tertiary study. My brother became a pilot and my sister a journalist and then senior public servant. Education has been a big part of our lives ever since my mum’s parents emigrated from Samoa to New Zealand in the 1950s, bringing their 10 children over one at a time.

I was born in Auckland in 1970 and we moved around a lot with Dad’s job in the army. He was passionate about education and thinking independently and often read to us as children.

In the 1980s mum and dad saved hard and took out a mortgage so they could send my brother and me to boarding school at Sacred Heart College, Auckland. I’m extremely grateful for their generous gift.

After school, I studied journalism in Auckland but wasn’t ready to get a real job, so enrolled at Victoria University of Wellington in 1990 to study English literature and law at the old Kelburn campus. I loved university life, including the lectures. The variety of teaching styles and subjects was extraordinary and something I’m very grateful for.

Though I didn’t realise it at the time, I was taught by some of the finest creative and legal minds in the country. One of my vivid memories is of Sir Geoffrey Palmer admonishing students for failing to read the Dominion newspaper before class. He stressed the importance of being informed citizens if we were to become useful lawyers.

After working in Wellington, including stints as Press Secretary to Winston Peters and to then-Prime Minister Jenny Shipley, I worked for Vodafone for several years in Auckland and overseas, before returning to New Zealand. I am currently a Partner at SenateSHJ in Wellington, a strategic communication consultancy which advises private and public sector clients on reputation management.

My advice to students is to appreciate that higher education is a tremendous privilege and a great discipline. Make the most of it while you can, and share your knowledge with others. Having a tertiary qualification opens many doors – it provides options and choices for the future.