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Originally the land of the Dharawal Aboriginal people, there is some contention as to how Sutherland was named. Whilst it could be that the land was named in reference to Forby Sutherland, a sailor on Cooks Endeavour who had nearby Point Sutherland named in his honour, it seems most likely that the name was derived from the fact this area south of Sydney was originally named the Parish of Southerland, yet the common misspelling which omitted the 'o' stuck and Sutherland was commonplace by the 1830s.
With the land unsuitable for agricultural uses, the area was mainly used for timber getting and some cattle grazing, remaining sparsely populated well into the 1800s. This all changed in the late 1800s when the railway line was extended through Sutherland and out towards popular coastal holiday spot Cronulla, leading to Sutherland becoming something of a service centre to coastal holiday makersMost employment in the town centred around the tile and brickworks as well as the tram and railway lines until well into the 1950s.
As the population of Sydney exploded in the decade following World War II, residential development expanded into Sydney's neighbouring rural suburbs, and Sutherland's proximity to the coast and large blocks of land made it a popular choice with Australian families. With the Royal National Park, popular beaches and coastline nearby, Sutherland has retained its profile as a well disposed residential suburb, fitting neatly between a cosmopolitan and rural bushland ideal.