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Waterfall is a suburb located between the Heathcote National Park and the Royal National Park south of Sydney and was originally inhabited by the Dharawal Aboriginal people. The Royal National Park was established in 1879 as The National Park and was Australia's first national park. The park was opened with the expressed intention of providing a space for Sydney residents that was free from pollution and overcrowding that allowed people to surround themselves in a natural environment.
The suburb's location within the peaks of the National Park was known as a place suitable for convalescence and saw the construction of the Waterfall Sanatorium in 1909. The chalet style building was designed as a treatment centre for suffers of tuberculosis with the centre aiming to improve a sufferers overall wellbeing through good air and nutrition. The sanatorium continued to operate until the 1950s when antibiotic treatment saw care for tuberculosis patients transferred to mainstream medical facilities. Today the heritage building operates as Garrawarra Hospital, an aged care facility for those suffering chronic and debilitating diseases.
In order to make access to the National Park simpler, a railway line was constructed with the Waterfall Railway Depot opening in 1886 being named after the numerous waterfalls which were located near the station. The first residents in Waterfall were workers employed on the railway with residential development focussed west of the station. Today Waterfall is the southern-most suburban station on the Illawarra line following the extension of the South Coast Line from Waterfall down through the National Park and to Wollongong a year later. In 2003 a Tangara train travelling south out of Waterfall Railway station would derail after approaching a bend at high speeds following the driver suffering a heart attack. This tragic incident was one of state’s worst railway disasters killing seven people including the train’s driver.
Following a housing development boom in the 1940s and 1950s the residential areas west of the station were further developed and today the picturesque suburb of Waterfall remains a residential outcrop within the national park.