After a record number of entries, Australians in Film announced Charmaine Bingwa as the winner of this year’s Heath Ledger Scholarship.

The Australian/Zimbabwean actor is the first woman of color to be honored with the scholarship and the 10th winner of the award which was founded five months after Ledger’s death. The scholarship honors Ledger’s legacy and is awarded to an actor who exhibits distinctive and unique potential. It offers assistance for young and emerging Australian actors to kick-start their careers, break into Hollywood or train internationally.

“I’m completely taken aback and so honored to be 2018’s winner of the Heath Ledger Scholarship,” said Bingwa after receiving the award. “I heard the other day someone say that the most powerful currency you have is the impact you have on other people and I think Heath epitomizes that. Heath personally taught me what the power of a performance can do.”

Bingwa recently appeared alongside Monica Bellucci in Nekrotronic, which made its world premiere earlier this month at the Toronto Film Festival. She also starred, wrote, produced and co-directed the award-winning series Little Sista. She has also appeared in the Australian feature film The Pitch and received a Sydney Theatre Award nomination and Broadway World nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Mrs. Muller in Doubt: A Parable.

The judging panel included Rose Byrne, Matt Damon, Elizabeth Debicki, Australian director Gregor Jordan, Hollywood producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Emmy-nominated director Jeremy Podeswa, and casting directors Carmen Cuba, Kirsty McGregor, Amanda Mitchell, Jason Wood, Barbara McCarthy and Ann Fay, Patron of the HLS.

Past recipients of the Heath Ledger Scholarship include Cody Fern, who currently stars in American Horror Story:  Apocalypse and can be seen in the forthcoming season of House of Cards as well as Bella Heathcote, star of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women and Strange Angel. Previous winner Ashleigh Cummings will make her Hollywood film debut in The Goldfinch opposite Ansel Elgort and Nicole Kidman. Last year’s winner, Mojean Aria appeared opposite Rachel Griffiths in the crime thriller Dead Lucky and can be seen in the forthcoming Danger Close with Travis Fimmel.

Bingwa is repped by David Smith of Smith & Jones Management in Sydney.