One month after her sudden resignation as Jewellers Association of Australia (JAA) president Karen Denaro has publicly spoken about her reasons for quitting and expressed concerns over the association’s management and direction.
Denaro’s comments appear damning and concern both the board’s decisions and conduct, including observations of external third parties attempting to influence the JAA.
Her first announcement came on 7 October. In a brief statement posted on her LinkedIn page Denaro said she had removed herself from the JAA board effective immediately, while further adding “I shall be issuing a press release on this, in due course.”
Following a news story on Jeweller published 10 October, Denaro further explained on the Jewellers Co. Facebook page that “I am in total integrity with my decision to part ways with the JAA. We are simply not aligned.”
Denaro’s most recent statement came via Linkedin on Tuesday night (8 November) – offering insight into behind-the-scenes incidents which occurred during her time at the JAA.
One notable issue raised in the statement is supposed plans by the JAA to create an industry ‘mega-body’ under the auspicious of an Australian Jewellery Industry Federation.
“The JAA’s Board of Directors, under Joshua Sharp as the new President, planned to preside over all Australian Jewellery Industry Associations under the “Australian Jewellery Industry Federation” created by merging the Gemmological Association of Australia, National Council of Jewellery Valuers, The Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia, Opal Association of Australia and Diamond Dealers Club of Australia, Pearl Producers Association and Watch and Clockmakers of Australia,” the statement reads.
According to Denaro, documentation for the creation of such a merger exists, eliminating the possibility that the plans are merely hypothetical.
Jeweller understands Sharp initially raised the proposal with the Board following his appointment as vice president on 31 May. Denaro said he subsequently followed the discussions at that meeting with an email on 21 July detailing the plan.
Jeweller approached the seven organisations on 9 November for comment – five months after the JAA first raised the concept – asking whether they had knowledge of such a proposal while also seeking clarification from the JAA on the matter.
Gold and Silversmiths Guild of Australia president Chris Sherwin confirmed he was unfamiliar with any such proposal. President of the Opal Association of Australia, Paul Sedawie, also said he had no knowledge of the proposal.
Likewise for Paul Watson, federal secretary Watch and Clockmakers of Australia – who also knew nothing about the supposed Australian Jewellery Industry Federation.
A spokesperson for the Victorian branch of the NCJV said that the proposal was “news to me” and explained that due to the autonomous nature of the state branches she found it hard to believe any such ‘federalisation’ could possibly occur.
A representative of the DDCA declined to comment, while Jeweller was unable to contact spokespersons for the GAA or the Pearl Producers Association.
Back to the future
With recently installed president Joshua Sharp currently in Italy Jeweller contacted JAA vice president Ronnie Bauer for clarification.
Bauer confirmed that the JAA had privately been formulating plans for a new Australian jewellery industry association but stressed that the trade association had no plans to ‘take over’ other organisations.
“If you look at the history of the jewellery industry in Australia you’ll see that there was once an organisation known as the AJGIC [Australian Jewellery and Gemstone Industry Council],” Bauer said.
“It was a round table group where the issues of the industry where discussed. That’s become defunct and so what we’re exploring is trying to re-establish and re-brand that concept. We’d like to create a platform where everyone is included and has an equal say.
“We’ve been working on this new idea, a reincarnation, since earlier this year. Unfortunately, Karen [Denaro’s] press release has let the cat out of the bag and we haven’t had the chance to get all of our ducks in a row.”
The AJGIC was founded in 1991, however; by the late 1990s, the Council was considered to have become too orientated around the opal trade specifically and lost its status.
While Jeweller was unable to contact any industry representatives outside of the JAA who had prior knowledge about plans for the Australian Jewellery Industry Federation, Bauer confirmed that informal discussions have been held between representatives.
“A few of us thought this was a good idea and I’m not just talking about the JAA, I’m also talking about the GAA. This is something Terry [Coldham] patron of the GAA is passionate about and I believe it’s been discussed with other board members,” Bauer explained.
“I’ve also spoken to the Victorian branch of the NCJV but that’s merely because I’m based in Victoria. I discussed it with Ricky McAndrew who is state president of the NCJV in Victoria and he told me informally that he thinks it’s a good idea, but this is still, very, very early days.
“Nothing has been made formal or released to the public because the devil is in the detail. All that’s been said is that this is a concept that would be worth reconfiguring.”
Official response expected
Within Denaro’s release she expressed her belief that the autonomous nature of the jewellery industry’s many bodies and associations was a strength, not a weakness.
“I genuinely believe we can flourish together with those individual entities existing in their own right and not consolidated under one umbrella group,” she said, outlining the view that the JAA’s plans are misguided.
In response Bauer said he hopes members and non-members of the JAA alike understand that this was a not a plot for some sort of ‘take over’.
“This is not some sort of take over bid by the JAA. If we do manage to resuscitate this organisation everyone will be involved in their own sovereign right and we have no intention to change that. That’s an important point I really hope gets across.”
Ironically, and prior to the AJGIC being disbanded, the JAA was one of the organisations that openly questioned its relevance to the industry.
Bauer added that he expected the JAA to comment further soon.
“We are convening a board meeting to arrange a formal response to Karen’s press release. The GAA are also aware of this situation so we have spoken to them about the idea of them formulating a response too,” he said.
Where to from here?
When Denaro was first appointed president of the JAA she outlined some straightforward and admirable aims for her time as leader.
“I am committed to serve the benefit of our JAA members and to foster unity across all sectors of the wider jewellery industry. I welcome the opportunity to discuss any industry matters or concerns with jewellery trade contributors and affiliates,” she said.
According to the latest press release following her resignation, achieving those goals appeared impossible considering the JAA’s plans and as a result of past disagreements with industry leaders which culminated in her sudden resignation.
“My vision for the Australian jewellery industry is to ensure relevance, growth and support of all industry bodies, associations, representatives and sectors of the trade in their status quo and promoting harmony between them,” she said.
“Offering over 34 years of jewellery industry experience, I shall passionately continue supporting the Australian jewellery industry’s progression in Australia and abroad to be relevant to its members’ needs and respectful of other industry associations.”
Jeweller is seeking clarification on other matters pertaining to Denaro’s media release.
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