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Holiday island a baptism hotspot
The West Australian

More parents are going to great lengths to get their children into Perth's popular Catholic schools as competition intensifies for places and availability declines because of WA's growing population.

Some parents are going as far as getting their children baptised even though they are not Catholic and seeking out liberal priests to do the ceremony.

Others are enrolling their babies at sought-after high schools, such as Trinity College, where 30 newborns were on the waiting list last year.

Rottnest's parish priest Father Leon Russell said "quite a number" of parents bringing their children to be baptised on the holiday island were doing it to boost their chance of getting into a Catholic school.

"I see that is probably enough to begin with. They feel they belong to a community. They feel they want their children to have that gift," Father Russell, who arrived in the parish in February, said.

Father Joe Walsh, parish priest at St Joseph's in Subiaco, said the growing population in Perth's western suburbs had not been matched with additional school places, increasing competition.

"Human nature is human nature. I'm sure there are variations on the theme," he said. "If people are using the Church to get into Catholic schools, the fundamental premise is not right."

Although WA Catholic schools have to take some non-Catholic students, preference is given to baptised children and schools ask for a reference from their parish priest, indicating the family's level of involvement with the Church.

"We do use the parish priest's reference because we are trying to get a very good alignment between family, school and parish," John XXIII College principal Anne Fry said. "It helps in a very competitive situation to delineate between what are very fine families.

"It's very hard to look at two, three and four year olds."

Annual tuition fees for pupils in Years 4 to 6 at Trinity and Aquinas are $7850 and $10,476 respectively, compared with $18,285 for Years 5 and 6 at independent Hale School and $17,328 for Years 3 to 6 at the independent Presbyterian Ladies' College.

Fabio Miranda, who is Catholic, had his children, Christian who is almost two and four-month-old Macy, baptised away from where the family live in Noranda, but in the same parish as the Catholic school he wants them to attend.

"I would have baptised my children anyway but I picked where I baptised them based on the school they will go to," he said.