Through existing anthropological research and particular analysis of myth and song-sequences, Professor Berndt's Wentworth Lecture examines the elements of innovation and enquiry in Aboriginal society. He notes that the questions people ask, how they ask them, and with what expectations, provides an evaluative grid that helps to understand a people's adaptation to changing circumstances.
In this aspect, Professor Berndt observes, whichever way we turn, the past exerts its influence over us. Aborigines found this out and utilized it to their advantage, to plan for the future in a straightforward way. This is not just a lifting of the past, or a relevant part of that past, into the present. It can only be a past seen through the eyes of the present generation. In a sense, its transmutation makes it an element of the present, whatever that ‘present' may be.