Sutherland Shire is located at the southern coastal border of the Sydney metropolitan area. The Shire is bounded by the City of Bankstown and Georges River to the north, the South Pacific Ocean to the east, the City of Wollongong to the south and the Cities of Campelltown and Liverpool to the west.
The Shire includes the suburbs and localities of Alfords Point, Bangor, Barden Ridge, Bonnet Bay, Bundeena, Burraneer, Caringbah, Como, Cronulla, Dolans Bay, Engadine, Grays Point, Gymea, Gymea Bay, Heathcote, Illawong, Jannali, Kangaroo Point, Kareela, Kirrawee, Kurnell, Lilli Pilli, Loftus, Lucas Heights, Maianbar, Menai, Miranda, Oyster Bay, Port Hacking, Sandy Point, Sutherland, Sylvania, Sylvania Waters, Taren Point, Waterfall, Woolooware, Woronora, Woronora Heights, Yarrawarrah and Yowie Bay.
Sutherland Shire is predominantly a residential area but also has substantial industrial, commercial and rural areas. The Shire also has extensive beaches, waterways, bushlands and parklands, including four national parks.
The original inhabitants of the Sutherland area were the ‘Dharawal’ Aboriginal people. The area was explored in 1770 when Captain Cook and members of the ship ‘Endeavour’ landed at Kurnell. European settlement in the Shire of Sutherland dates from 1806 when settlers lived along the Georges River. Early industries included timber cutting, fishing, market gardening, cattle grazing and farming. Crown land sales began from 1856. The population grew slowly until 1885 when the first steam train to Sutherland commenced. Coastal and river frontage areas such as Como, Cronulla, Illawarra and Yowie Bay became popular as country retreats for wealthy city dwellers. Settlement continued slowly, with only about 1,500 people living in the area when the Shire was proclaimed in 1906.
The population grew to nearly 3,000 by 1911 and was aided by the Sutherland-Cronulla steam train service which was inaugurated as a ‘light railway’. This increased the popularity of the Cronulla beaches and aided in business development. By 1914 the population had grown to over 7,500. In 1921 the population reached nearly 8,000, by 1931 it was over 12,000 and by 1939 it was nearly 20,000. By 1951 it had risen to over 50,000.
Significant residential development occurred in the 1950s, along with industrial and commercial development. Farms and bushland were replaced by new suburban housing estates, firstly in the east of the Shire and later in the west. The population jumped to nearly 112,000 by 1961 and continued to grow to over 153,000 by 1971. Population growth since then has slowed as the supply of new land within the Shire is almost exhausted and infill development (villas, townhouses, flats and apartments) has become the dominant form of housing additional people. The population of Sutherland Shire has increased from 193,000 in 1996 to over 202,000 in 2001. Recent population growth in the Shire has occurred largely in the Barden Ridge and Menai areas (where the new releases of land for urban development have been) and around the main railway stations.
Major features of the Shire include the Georges River, Hacking River, Botany Bay National Park, Georges River National Park, Heathcote National Park, Royal National Park, Miranda Fair Shopping Centre, Sutherland Hospital, Caltex Oil Refining Company, Southern Sydney Institute of TAFE (Gymea and Loftus campuses) and EG Waterhouse National Camellia Gardens. The Shire is served by the Princes Highway and the Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra railway line with stations at Caringbah, Como, Cronulla, Engadine, Gymea, Heathcote, Jannali, Kirrawee, Loftus, Miranda, Sutherland, Waterfall and Woolooware.