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Positive change starting at Jewellers Association?

Important changes have taken place at the JAA and while COLEBY NICHOLSON has previously not been backward in criticising the peak body, he now hopes for a refreshed and reinvigorated Australian jewellery industry.

The Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) has appointed Amanda Hunter as its new executive director. She started in late June and a media release at the time stated that Hunter would bring “27 years of business experience across a range of levels along with an astounding subset of skills”.

Hunter has no previous jewellery industry experience, which could be a good thing because she comes to our industry un-blinkered. And for that reason, Jeweller let her settle into the position for a month or so before seeking an interview concerning her initial observations about the industry.

The article indicates that she has quickly gained an insight into some of the major problems facing retailers and suppliers.

However, “understanding” problems and successfully “dealing” with them are two entirely different issues, so her job is both difficult and exciting. I say “difficult” because many of the problems facing the industry are not new and yet the JAA has only recently decided to deal with them.

Amanda Hunter is the new executive director at the JAA
Amanda Hunter is the new executive director at the JAA

For example, the parlous state of apprenticeships and training has been a hotly debated topic for many years and still very little seems to have been done about it. I don’t think anyone would say the current situation is good, let alone ideal, and yet for years the peak industry body has not led the charge on reinvigorating the trade to any significant result.

Hunter lists “assisting with apprentice training” as one of her major focuses in the new position, and I hope that is encouraging. It should be recognised though, that problems regarding apprentice training are not unique to our industry. It is the bugbear of many industries across the country, often being caught between state and federal government politics.

It’s a very complex matter, however, that’s all the more reason why the JAA needs someone with the skills to not only navigate stormy (political) seas, but also the personality to make a convincing case for transformation.

I also mentioned “exciting” times because the JAA is attempting to make some long overdue changes, including modifying the size and structure of the board.

For too long the JAA board has been nothing more than a boys club, both figuratively speaking and literally. I have previously observed that a board of 13 for an association of less than 1,000 equates to one director for every 70 members. That’s absurd, and there have been plans for some time to reduce it to six and that move was ratified at the recent JAA annual general meeting.

In addition, and even though I am not a fan of positive discrimination, my previous commentary has also outlined the lack of female representation at the higher levels of the Australian jewellery industry. More change is needed here.

On a positive note, the JAA should be congratulated for some of its recent initiatives, including the successful motion for a Senate inquiry into retail leasing as well as seeking approval from the ACCC to create a national leasing database. There are a number of other projects underway too, such as a jeweller’s accreditation scheme.

Therefore, Hunter joins the association at a time when many initiatives have been set in train; however, it will be her job to ensure they come to fruition.

The fact that she will now not be dealing with a 13-member board should surely make the tasks at hand a little easier. I hope she is successful and I also hope she doesn’t stay in the position too long!

You see, I don’t believe people heading industry bodies should be in the position for much longer than three years. That timeframe allows them to get settled and then to push through the required changes that can often cause discontent among a vocal minority.

Over the years I have seen many associations where the staff outstay their welcome, and their contribution to the industry diminishes. Numerous JAA boards have, over many years, mismanaged the “CEO” role.

Indeed, it’s understood that one had to be physically removed from the building while some years later the JAA board ignored the CEO’s daily alcohol intake for far too long but not before enormous disharmony prevailed.

And, for reasons I outlined earlier this year, I believe the past 2-3 years have been an inglorious period for the JAA office.

However, the hope is that Hunter, as a fresh face and an industry outsider, will be well placed to finalise some long overdue changes, initiate her own ideas, re-unite a somewhat fractious industry and reinvigorate the trade.

Her success will be measured in numbers and pandering to sycophants and snivellers will be the wrong road to take. We, as an industry, need to accept that the good old days are gone and, instead, embrace the new digital world and turn them into the new, good old days.

Therefore, Hunter’s task won’t be easy but the clock has started, and she got off to a good start at last week’s Sydney Trade Fair – so let’s hope the next few years are focused, positive, and, as I began this commentary, exciting.

We are, after all, the jewellery industry; exhilaration is our stock in trade!


More reading:
Changing face of JAA

Background reading:
More changes needed at Jewellers Association
Time for a change at the JAA



Coleby Nicholson

Former Publisher • Jeweller Magazine

Coleby Nicholson launched Jeweller in 1996 and was also publisher and managing editor from 2006 to 2019. He has covered the jewellery industry for more than 20 years and specialises in business-to-business aspects of the industry.

SAMS Group Australia

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