Many Australian farmers and rural communities have been experiencing hardship from the latest severe and prolonged drought. While this is not new to dryland farming, 'irrigation drought' is uncharted territory. Australia has always had a variable climate, with drought being a recurring feature. Looking to the future, experts predict higher temperatures and, for some regions, more frequent periods of exceptionally low rainfall. Most farmers are sufficiently self-reliant to manage climate variability. The National Drought Policy's (NDP) Exceptional Circumstance (EC) declarations and related drought assistance programs do not help farmers improve their self-reliance, preparedness and climate change management. Governments need to commit to a long term reform path that recognises that the primary responsibility for managing risks, including from climate variability and change, rests with farmers. Similar recommendations from the previous reviews of the NDP have not been adopted. To ensure that this new policy direction is credible and enduring: the NDP should be replaced with extended objectives for Australia’s Farming Future; and an intergovernmental agreement with independent monitoring and financial incentives for complying with agreed commitments should be established.