School drug education is seen by governments as an ideal prevention strategy because it offers the potential to stop use by the next generation. Australian schools expanded drug education substantially during the 1960s in response to rising use by young people, and in 1970 the first national drug education programme was launched. In the mid-1990s the level and quality of drug education increased noticeably. Unfortunately, subsequent national initiatives have failed to capitalise on the gains made during this period. Some good quality, independent research, such as the Gatehouse Project and the School Health and Alcohol Harm Reduction Project (SHAHRP), has been conducted in Australia. However, national-level momentum is being lost, because there is little commitment to the development of evidence-based mass programmes. In this climate drug education has become vulnerable to short-term decision-making that emphasises palatable, policy-driven outcomes and focuses on strategies designed to bolster the legitimacy of these goals. So is Australia ‘fair dinkum’ about drug education in schools? There is a history of innovation, and past programmes have left behind pockets of expertise, but the challenge is to invest continuously in methods with evidence of success, rather than settle for cyclical programmes driven by the political and moral palliatives of the day. To do less is to fail the young people of Australia.