Gymea is believed to have been named by the government surveyor W.A.B. Greaves in 1855, from the aboriginal name for the tall red flowered lily found in the area. In 1908, the Government had approved construction of a steam tram route from Sutherland to Cronulla, with construction completed and steam trams operating along the route from June 12, 1911. The area remained semi-rural and sparsely settled well into the 20th century, with the suburbanisation of the area following the construction of the railway. The Sutherland-Cronulla line was constructed from 1936 and completed in 1939, under the NSW premiership of the conservative Sir Bertram Stevens.
In 1936 the NSW State Parliament authorised expenditure of 300,000 pounds to construct the Sutherland to Cronulla railway line, with the men employed to receive award wages “in pursuance of the Cabinet’s policy of replacing unemployment relief works by works that will provide a better return for the expenditure of public money, and at the same time create improved conditions of employment.” (Canberra Times, 22 February 1936, page 1). A federal loan for “state works” including “speeding up of the construction of the Sutherland-Cronulla line” was granted to the NSW government in November 1938 (Canberra Times, 28 November 1938, page 1).
The Gymea Lily, Doryanthes excelsa is a 6m tall perennial that is prevalent in the area. It was named by the local Eora people and became the inspiration for the suburb’s name, by government surveyor W.A.B. Geaves in 1855. The Gymea Lily has been adopted as a symbol of the area and features on the crest of many local organisations. Development in the area has eradicated most of the lilies but many can still be found, a few kilometres south, in the Royal National Park.
The Gymea Chamber of Commerce was believed to have started in the 1950’s when the local store owners came together to collaborate on the planning and management of the local shopping strip. Following on from this was the establishment of the Gymea Fair which featured a parade along the main street. Today, the heritage of the founding chamber of commerce is recognised by our current committee and the Gymea Village Fair continues to draw crowds every year.