09/25/2008 at 02:25 PM EDT
A scholarship to help emerging Australian actors and honor the memory of Heath Ledger
has launched – and Ledger's ex, Michelle Williams
, is stepping up as the first donor.
The Australians in Film
Heath Ledger Scholarship will award recipients up to $10,000, and round-trip airfare from Australia, to pursue a career in the United States. Ledger was an Ambassador for AIF before his death in January; current ambassadors include Nicole Kidman
, Hugh Jackman
and Naomi Watts
"Broke Aussie actors in LA form a tradition that goes all the way back to Errol Flynn," says Ned Kelly
director and Ledger pal Gregor Jordan, who will be part of the scholarship's five-member judging panel. "Heath was definitely part of that tradition and this scholarship is something he would have been proud to have his name associated with."
The fund also has the support of Williams, who has pledged to contribute an undisclosed amount, and Ledger's family.
"We as a family are pleased with the establishment and progress of the AIF scholarship award named in honor of our much loved and generous son, Heath," said Ledger's father, Kim. "As a result of this scholarship, a talented Australian actor will gain valuable assistance to support their personal goals, and an opportunity for recognition in the very tough US film industry."
Plans for the scholarship were first announced
in June at AIF's 2008 Breakthrough Awards. The selected actor must be over 18 and be in the early stages of his or her career. Applications are available online
and will be accepted from Oct. 1 to Nov. 28, with the first beneficiary to be announced by mid-February.
Ledger, 28, was found dead Jan. 22 after an accidental overdose. A federal probe into his death was concluded
Reporting by ELIZABETH LEONARDRELATED ARTICLE:
Michelle & Matilda's life after Heath RELATED GALLERY:
The story behind Heath's untimely death