Parkes woman Kath Swansbra named on Queen's Birthday 2019 Honours List

Parkes woman Kath Swansbra was thankful to have something to keep her busy when her husband passed away 25 years ago, and today on the anniversary of his death, that distraction is seeing her being honoured with an OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia).

"Malcolm died on the 10th of June, 1994, and I'm getting this on the 10th of June, 25 years later," she said.

"You wouldn't credit that the two would come together like this.

"I was grateful for my cake decorating when my husband died. I hadn't been doing it all that long.

"When you lose someone you've got a big hole there."

Kath first took up cake decorating as a hobby and today, with numerous prestigious accolades under her belt, the 79-year-old has been honoured for her service to the decorative food arts.

She is one of two women from the Parkes Shire to receive the prestigious medal and title that follows, and among the 593 OAM recipients around Australia, of which 246 are women.

"When I got the first letter to say I had been nominated I couldn't believe it," Kath said.

"I answered it and said it is an honour to be nominated, and even if the nomination is not successful I am truly humbled.

"Because I am truly humbled. And I was staggered!"

That was late March and Kath has had to sit on her secret since.

Kath did two one-term TAFE courses in cake decorating under the expert guide of Jeanette Macgregor - and then she did a course in wool classing.

"One is nice and pretty and the other one is smelly and dirty," she laughed.

Kath and Malcolm had a farm at Gunningbland for many years until they were forced to move to town when Malcolm was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

"We didn't have any sons, we had three daughters Debra, Gaye and Tracey, and you lose your young people, they go off for tertiary education and marry city guys and don't come back," Kath said.

"I didn't want to run a farm by myself so I stayed in Parkes."

Kath has been named National Cake Decorating Champion at least nine times - she's lost count.

"I've won a few Best Exhibit in Cake Decorating and Sugar Art at Sydney Show, it's eight or nine times too I think," she said.

"The numbers don't worry me - I'm just thankful I can still manage to do it."

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Kath said of all the cakes she has made over the years she doesn't really have a favourite.

"They've all been different," she said.

"I enjoy the challenge competition which is run by the Cake Decorators Guild, it generally has a theme and then that cake is usually what I end up with in the Sydney Show and then I can tack Parkes Show on the end of it.

"And then they sit around in boxes," she laughed.

Kath said she doesn't do as many cakes as she used to.

"People aren't getting married these days, I used to do at least 35 wedding cakes a year but it's all changed and I haven't done one for a couple of years now.

"I still do the Elvis Wedding Vows cake and the Anglican Deb cake and I do a whole heap of little cakes at Christmas time that Meals on Wheels deliver."

The grandmother of six still loves the art of cake decorating and at almost 80 has no plans to retire just yet.

"I live in a constant mess," she laughed.

"I still love it only I don't get as motivated as I used to.

"I'm getting good at doing nothing."

Kath has been a member of the Parkes/Forbes Branch of the Cake Decorators Guild since 1985 and is the current secretary.

She has produced a series of cakes depicting various themes including Villers-Bretonneux, World War 1 a Centenary of Armistice and various other commemorative cakes.

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