Frequently inspired by the spectre of existential risk, Australian IR scholars have made â€“ and continue to make â€“ a crucial contribution to the evolution of normative IR theory. In defending this position, this article takes three steps. First, it outlines key catalysts that prompted the emergence of this sub-field as a distinct and self-aware area of study approximately forty years ago and refines the story of its genesis by recognising pioneering Australian contributions. Second, it turns to the previous generation of Australian IR to explore the work of two prominent scholars â€“ and â€˜neglected antecedentsâ€™ â€“ who both prefigured and helped to establish the intellectual context for normative IR theory. Specifically, it focuses on the scholarship of Coral Bell and Hedley Bull and maintains that the classical approach and interpretive methodology that their work exemplified and fostered was particularly conducive to the subsequent development of a sub-field focused on questions of international ethics. Finally, this article contemplates the future of normative IR theory in Australia by highlighting its current flourishing, acknowledging the seemingly intractable practical challenges that it must address, and proposing that it might better confront them by turning to a hitherto overlooked Australian ethical perspective.