In what will likely be the first of several major awards given to late actor Heath Ledger in the coming months, the Australian Film Institute honored the star with their best actor award at a ceremony in Melbourne, Australia, over the weekend.

"It has been without a doubt the most difficult year, losing such a loved family member," Heath’s sister Kate told the packed auditorium as she accepted the award along with the actor’s parents. "We are so proud of him and humbly accept this award on behalf of his beautiful daughter who we will cherish forever."

Heath, who passed away in January at the age of 28 in a rented NYC apartment after an accidental overdose of painkillers and other medicines, is expected to be one of this awards season’s biggest winners for his unforgettable take on comic book villain The Joker in the summer blockbuster. He was previously nominated for an Oscar for his work on 2005’s Brokeback Mountain.

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