Barry Streek was educated at Michaelhouse and then studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown from 1967 to 1970. In Rhodes he joined the anti-apartheid National Union of South African Students and was involved in many anti-apartheid activities in the university for which the then South African government put a banning order on him. It was reveled in later years that the secret police, with direct assistance from the university, had compiled a substantial file on Streek's anti-apartheid activities.
In 1984 he founded the Social Change Assistance Trust (SCAT), a non-profit organisation that works to assist and help develop poor rural communities in South Africa.
25 years of Streek's long career as a political journalist was spent in the Parliamentary Press Gallery in Cape Town. He became Parliament's media manager in 2001 before returning to the press gallery as a correspondent for the Mail & Guardian newspaper. After which he became editor-in-chief for publishing house Jonathan Ball.
He died of cancer in 2006. In March 2006 SCAT renamed SCAT House, the organisation's head quarters in Cape Town city center, Barry Streek House and initiated a series of awards in honour of him.
It is known that at the time of his death he was working on biographical book on the life and times of Sir David Graaff, 1st Baronet.