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Among the issues highlighted by Denaro was a JAA plan to create an ‘Australian Jewellery Industry Federation’ that she believed was misguided.
Among the issues highlighted by Denaro was a JAA plan to create an ‘Australian Jewellery Industry Federation’ that she believed was misguided.

JAA addresses industry backlash; denies plans for "authoritarian regime"

The Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) has released a statement acknowledging industry backlash to the revelation that it has plans for the formation of a new industry ‘mega-body’.

The JAA’s release used emotive language and denied that the proposal is designed to “takeover” the industry under a “planned authoritarian regime”.

The matter arose on 8 November when former JAA president Karen Denaro issued a press release explaining some of the reasons for her sudden resignation from the JAA one month earlier. The statement addressed management concerns within the trade association and its future direction.

Among the issues highlighted by Denaro was a JAA plan to create an ‘Australian Jewellery Industry Federation’ that she believed was misguided.

Jeweller contacted JAA vice president Ronnie Bauer on 9 November who offered clarification about the proposal saying it would be like a ‘round table’ to discuss industry issues. He also said that the association was intending to issue a public response to Denaro’s release.

One week later on 15 November the JAA issued its response, however, the release appears to take aim at the industry’s response to Denaro’s statement, rather than the statement itself.

Indeed, the JAA release doesn’t mention Denaro directly at all – it merely references a “change in leadership”.

“Further to recent industry posts on social media, the JAA would like to assure all members and the industry as a whole that, as a Board, the JAA has never discussed or thought about 'taking over' the industry,” the release reads.

“Rather, our discussions have focused on striving for a more cohesive industry. A so-called federation has been tabled many times in our industry over the last 20 years and is nothing new.

“However, it is just an idea that many in the industry have had. It is not, and should not be characterised as, a 'takeover' or a planned authoritarian regime, as implied on some social media.”

Industry backlash

The JAA’s plans for a supposed ‘mega-body’ reportedly includes seven key Australian industry bodies – the Gemmological Association of Australia (GAA), the National Council of Jewellery Valuers (NCJV), The Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia (GSGA), Opal Association of Australia (OAA), Diamond Dealers Club of Australia (DDCA), Pearl Producers Association (PPA), and the Watch and Clockmakers of Australia (WCA).

In the past week Jeweller has spoken with representatives from six of the seven organisations to confirm their knowledge (or lack thereof) of the JAA’s proposal.

Among them was Chris Sherwin, president of the GSGA, who has subsequently issued some advice to the JAA in the Jewellers Co Facebook group.

“As the current president of the GSGA and a founding member of the organisation I have never seen the JAA reach out to us in the last 33 years,” Sherwin said.

“As Kevin Hitchins says [referencing a previous post], that organisation has a very short corporate memory, which is disappointing. No one has reached out to me in regard to this new matter of a combined association.

"Probably not smart to attempt something so dramatic in the public domain. I would be more cautious in my approach to an idea such as this.”

Sherwin continued by clarifying the GSGA’s position moving forward.

"The Guild has excellent relationships with the GAA and the jewellery valuers (NCJV) in Australia and we have worked well with the AJGIC when Kevin Hitchins represented the Guild in supporting the precious metal standards in Australia when reviewed and reinstated,” he explained.

“The Guild will continue to work with and support jewellery trade organisations that can work positively and proactively together with us.”

Veteran weighs in

The Kevin Hitchins referenced by Sherwin is a former president of the GSGA. He also offered his insight into the situation – albeit choosing sharper words than Sherwin.

“The JAA every few years tried to rule the jewellery world by this notion of combining all associations,” he said.

“It has never [worked] before and it never will. The education-based bodies and grass roots manufacturing jewellers have a massive distrust of the JAA in part due to the way they have in-house deals with third parties, how they have handed events and publications to other organisations and then lost control.”

» Background reading: Tracking a decade of decline and disharmony

He continued: “The other thing is this board has no corporate memory otherwise why try to invent what already exists. The AJGIC is the overriding body for all jewellery precious metals and mining in Australia. It is the Commonwealth regulated industry group.”

“As president of the GSGA I used it to help push the Aust. Standards through as the JAA representative was not at all supportive of the project despite other JAA members actively and financially supporting their reintroduction.”

Strong criticism

Another contributor to the Jewellers Co Facebook group raised prior issues the JAA has faced as cause for concern should plans for the AJIF proceed.

“If the AJIF happens, I will seriously consider setting fire to every certificate, diploma or piece of paper I have from the trade that is from the GAA, NCJV etc. I do not want a bunch of jewellers, telling gemologists and valuers and diamond traders how to do stuff,” the comment reads.

“Considering how the membership of the JAA is worse than the graph for shares in YAHOO! why would the GAA and NCJV ever consider being beholden to the organisation that backed the DCLA?.”

GAA responds

On 11 November the GAA provided Jeweller with a a brief response to Denaro’s 8 November statement.

“In response to the press release issued by Karen Denaro, immediate past President of the Jewellers Association of Australia on the 9th of November; The Gemmological Association of Australia (GAA) wishes to assure our members and the industry that we are not intending to merge our association with the Jewellers Association of Australia,” the statement reads.

“The GAA welcomes co-operation and collaboration with relevant industry groups if and when required for the betterment of the industry. We remain committed to our mission of continuing to provide the highest standard of gemmological education.”

JAA requests understanding

The JAA’s statement concludes by highlighting the association’s priorities moving forward.

“As members of the JAA Board, we accept our position as volunteers seriously and respect the confidentiality agreement we undertake. We understand our responsibilities to the industry, our members, and the behaviour we must follow as part of a not-for-profit organisation,” the statement reads.

“It is never easy being on a board; it is a voluntary position and often the hours given are never acknowledged. The JAA Board, as we assume is the case for all the associations within the industry, only want the best for the jewellery industry as a whole and would only promote harmony between each other.”

The JAA’s Annual General Meeting is scheduled to take place on 21 November.

The release concludes: “We will, as we have always, welcome discussions with other industry bodies as well as listening to ongoing concerns and feedback from our members and industry.”

More reading
JAA turns down opportunity for industry unity
Confusion about JAA plans for a mega-association
JAA president tenders shock resignation
JAA confirms Sharp as new president
JAA's fall from grace: 2020 State of the Jewellery Industry Report
Jewellery association membership at a record low

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